RSU 73 directors make cuts, send budget back to voters
LIVERMORE FALLS - Hoping to pass a budget on a third try, the RSU 73 board majority voted Monday night to cut another $145,467 from the $18.7 million budget total.
On July 24, residents in Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls voted 346-469 to not validate the results of the July 10 budget meeting, where attendees passed the $18.73 million budget proposed for 2012-13 by the school board and administration. That budget was the second defeated at referendum, with residents voting against validating the first budget 642-734 on June 12. A total of $282,000 had been cut out the original, $19 million budget proposed by the school board at the beginning of June.
After Monday night's special school board meeting where directors voted 8-3, with Chairwoman Denise Rodzen of Livermore Falls, Vicki McLeod of Jay and Darcie Comstock, also of Jay opposed, to cut another $145,467. To date a total of $428,748 has been cut from the total budget, which now stands at $18,589,603. The three directors had attempted to cut more - a total $206,286 from the budget.
The board also approved warrants for a public budget meeting to be held 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 14, at the Spruce Mountain Middle School and the validation referendum to be held on Tuesday, Aug. 21 in Livermore, Livermore Falls and Jay.
The latest round of cuts are for a half-time secretary at $23,427; half the funding set aside for transitioning the two high schools together expected by June 30, 2013, which left $56,521; a three-fifths alternative education social worker at $32,505; and a north campus alternative ed tech at $21,452. Also cut were $35,000 in diesel fuel, $3,000 for business office supplies, $41,890 in insurance changes. All of the positions cut were currently vacant.
The school board discussed more than 20 proposed cuts that totaled $335,089 and included all co-curricular field trips, eliminating the pre-kindergarten program that currently serves 80 students, a middle school ed tech position, the Jay Elementary School library book budget, the high school and middle school varsity and junior varsity stipends for coaches. Additionally proposed was cutting the elementary schools activity budget, along with the middle and high school drama budgets.
The board discussed, along with a few residents and school administrators the need not to "hurt the kids" by cutting programs that would directly effect the educational service to its students.
More discussion centered on the possible reasons why the voters rejected the budget twice and by a greater margin, but fewer voters turning out the second time around after initial cuts were made to the budget.
Rodzen said comments posted on the Daily Bulldog showed voters were mad that the high schools weren't under one roof yet and that they were never told the consolidation of the two schools required a $5 million addition to the Jay High School.
Resident Jean Richards attending the meeting asked "Were we told?" during the consolidation process that the high school students from two campuses couldn't fit onto one campus. "Was it stressed," he said.
"It was addressed where to put all the kids," Rodzen said and added she was disappointed so much attention was paid to merging the sports teams. "We're trying to get the kids together so it won't cost as much as a $5 million or $7 million addition." Voters rejected the addition proposal in May.
Currently, a committee is studying the best way to merge the two schools together. Part of the original consolidation agreement holds that the schools must merge by June 30, 2013.
As things stand now, "It's not realistic; we can't put all the students together on the same campus," Rodzen said. In response to voters' complaints that the consolidation was supposed to save money, Rodzen said the budget of the first year was for two school systems, the current second year is a better indicator of what it actually costs and all along the savings of having one high school was expected to come in the third year of consolidation after Livermore Falls High School closes for an estimated $659,000 in savings.
Complicating all of this is the state and federal cuts of the last year. With a combined total decrease of $700,000, both from federal stimulus funding ending and continued state cutbacks, the next round of cuts will effect the students, directors noted.
"If we said next up there would be no football in the fall, we'd get a passed budget," Rodzen noted.
Superintendent Robert Wall urged the vote to go forward with as little effect on the students as possible.
"Let's take the risk of a third vote passing and move forward. It's important to get this right so we don't lose service to students," he said.
"Voters have only one question: Do you or do you not want to educate your children?" Rodzen said and added, "(It's) not are you mad about the addition; it's not are you mad that the schools aren't under one roof."