Franklin Countys First News

RSU 9 budget voted down by wide margin

[Update: 9:17 PM] FARMINGTON - A $32.6 million budget for Regional School Unit 9 was rejected for the third time by a wide margin Tuesday evening, as 4,501 voters turned out across all 10 towns.

The final, unofficial result for RSU 9's towns was 1,608 in favor and 2,893 opposed, with a combined total of 4,501 votes cast. By comparison, roughly 3,100 and 2,700 votes were cast, respectively, in the two referendums earlier this year.

Turnout increased in every town, as compared to the earlier votes, with three towns voting in favor of the $32.6 million budget by a combined 40 votes: Chesterville, New Sharon and New Vineyard. The total, 1,285 margin of "no" votes over "yes" votes exceeded the combined margins of the previous six budget votes held over the past three years.

Specific, town-by-town results can be found below.

The school board will now be tasked with developing a new budget prior to a fourth district-wide budget meeting and budget validation referendum.

###

FARMINGTON - Mt. Blue Regional School District is holding its third validation vote for the 2017-18 budget today in all 10 towns. Polls will close for towns at 6, 7 or 8 p.m. tonight.

A "yes" vote will approve the $32.6 million budget set at the Sept. 5 meeting. A "no" vote rejects it, effectively restarting the process. More details about today's vote, including poll times, and the budget can be found here.

Towns currently reporting unofficial, preliminary results this evening include: Chesterville, Farmington, Industry, New Sharon, New Vineyard, Starks, Temple, Vienna, Weld and Wilton.

Results will be posted, as they come in, here:

Chesterville: 168 yes and 166 no
Farmington: 565 yes and 1,243 no
Industry: 60 yes and 139 no
New Sharon: 227 yes and 210 no
New Vineyard: 99 yes and 78 no
Starks: 24 yes and 156 no
Temple: 58 yes and 123 no
Vienna: 41 yes and 124 no
Weld: 44 yes and 79 no
Wilton: 322 yes and 575 no

Total: 1,608 yes and 2,893 no, or 4,501 total votes cast.

The school board has a Thursday meeting scheduled, regardless as to the outcome of tonight's vote.

Results for the second validation vote (which failed on July 25)
Chesterville - 55 yes and 172 no
Farmington - 555 yes and 442 no
Industry - 54 yes and 71 no
New Sharon - 95 yes and 204 no
New Vineyard - 25 yes and 90 no
Starks - 111 yes and 23 no
Temple - 50 yes and 69 no
Vienna - 51 yes and 40 no
Weld - 32 yes and 38 no
Wilton - 262 yes and 280 no

Total - 1,290 yes and 1,429 no, or 2,719 total votes cast.

Results for the first validation vote (which failed on June 13)
Chesterville - 61 yes and 183 no
Farmington - 644 yes and 501 no
Industry - 65 yes and 89 no
New Sharon - 139 yes and 207 no
New Vineyard - 31 yes and 109 no
Starks - 84 yes and 19 no
Temple - 65 yes and 75 no
Vienna - 61 yes and 57 no
Weld - 34 yes and 52 no
Wilton - 273 yes and 349 no

Total - 1,457 yes and 1,641 no, or 3,098 total votes cast.

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126 Responses »

  1. Michael...The elderly have not forgotten that many are TAXED right out of
    the homes they have lived in for years. To Kathryn Mills Woodsum...saying
    that a Budget Increase does not mean a tax increase is another example of
    'Liberal Fake News. The real problem is that the 'Older Generation has heard all these promises and plans many times before and want common sense that
    is relative to the times we live in today and not some 'wish list' that is abstract.
    What is 'Special Education' anyway ? How about All education being special. What are 'Gifted Students'?....Advance them to a higher level and skip all the nonsense. If today's school system cannot prepare a person to enter society with the necessary skills with a good basic education...than it also cannot send that same person into society with all the extras' administrators feel they need. Stop chasing the 'snowflake rainbow in Maine, that is, and has, ruined the once great California educational system. Maine can have a great educational system if it does not abandon
    Reason, Imagination and Common Sense. Let us start by not sending our
    students to SAD school districts. Hold a contest to rename our educational school divisions to something better than SAD.

  2. It's time to work on another angle...The University of Farmington continues to purchase numerous expensive homes and property which now is tax exempt. I read somewhere that it comprises of something like 30% of the Town of Farmington. IF that figure is correct, we need to start taxing those buildings.

    Well bless those little snowflakes who campaigned long and hard. Telling us we are living beyond our means and that we shouldn't have purchased property that we can't afford was probably good advice. We all need to sell and move before they make us pay for their college education...

  3. Anyone know what time and which room the meeting is on Thursday?

  4. Article should read scare tactics works very well !! The Support our Schools face book page spent a lot of money on adds for KTJ. College students asked to register to vote . Hang on now, because the increase in the budget will be more than the second time. They got the votes now ! One common denominator is for certain, The top dog of RSU 9 has to go !

  5. A budget this big can bankrupt a town or all the towns in this case . There are more elderly in all of Maine than any other State . We have to stand our ground. Enough is Enough .

  6. If you take Farmington NO vote, because of the student vote, completely out , NO voters still won. It's a bit like : Somalies and immigrants drive new cars, which were paid by the government!!!!

  7. Thank you to everyone that came out to vote.

    I've read many comments from concerned residents that are looking for clarification on the next step. The school board has scheduled a new budget meeting Thursday evening at the Mt. Blue campus at 7 pm. It is a public meeting, as are all of our meetings. Anyone that wishes to let the board know what is important to them, and what you want us to consider moving forward, please attend. I am sure there will probably be additional meetings but a projected timeline for the new budget, and possibly administrative recommendations of reductions, will most likely be presented that night. If you plan on attending, I encourage you to spend some time watching some of our past meetings at http://www.mtbluersd.org/district- .

    This issue has been very divisive for our community. But, we do have an opportunity now to put some of that negativity behind us and to find some common ground. Please, continue to remember that we are all in this together. Every resident that voted on Tuesday took pride in doing what they felt was right, and were part of a democracy they believe in. They are our neighbors, friends, and family members. You can share an opposing view and still be respectful and supportive of the human in opposition to you.

    I can't speak for the other school board members and Administration, but I'm fairly certain we are all open to listening to everyone's concerns, no matter how you voted Tuesday. I'd like to believe we always have been. We welcome your attendance and participation moving forward. Please do know, that we are very ready to find a genuine compromise that all residents are comfortable with.

  8. Is my data faulty ? Retrieved from the 2015-2016 NCLB REPORT CARD and the MT BLUE RSU9 2017-2018 BUDGET DETAIL documents. Total staff,(not just teaches) wages are about $19,764,000. Total benefits are $5,205,000. (26% avg The instructional avg. is over 30%) The transportation section is49%!!!.The reportcard data indicates that over 50% of students did not meet standards.56% failed math, 25% failed english, and 33% failed science. That's not very good for about a $26 million investment.

  9. Could we all stick to the facts? The million dollar (acutally $900k) in cuts were to a proposed budget. In fact the cuts were $92k (down from the current year's budget) all pertaining to administration. RSU 9 staff, students, and voters were led to believe that 30 positions would be cut (no bullying there); however, the 30 positions referenced by school officials were to positions yet unfilled and in fact part of their proposed "dream" budget.

    Students, staff, and voters were running scared, speculating on cuts in positions, sports, music, etc, with no one bothering to look at the truth or gather people on common ground. What a waste of time, energy, and money.

  10. I love the comments here about being civil and respectful during this next round. Criticism toward teachers and administrators is usually expected to some degree, but attacking/threatening students is unacceptable

  11. I agree with Fred. The first deep cut should be the salaries of administrators. I worked in schools for several years. Administrators do not work harder than teachers, yet their salaries are huge! Teachers earn every penny they make, by the way. Well, most of them.

  12. Do your research. Title 20-A deals with education and finances. #1486 deals with Budget Meetings. It says that the LAST BUDGET approved at a BUDGET MEETING is the one the school has to operate under UNTIL the next approved Budget with validation at referendum. So right now the school must operate on last year's budget. Tom Ward has told people that he was going to have to lay off 30 people. How many layoffs have taken place? No one, I bet. So who is being told erroneous information.
    According to a radio interview, Tom has told listeners the School received $800,000 this year from MaineCare billing. The budget includes $300,000 for reimbursement for MaineCare hidden somewhere in the Revenue Line. I was told by a Board Member that because the additional $500,000 wasn't included in the Budget. it couldn't be used. Not true. Under Cost Center info, the Statue allows for unplanned-for income to be used for the "Cost Center" - meaning that additional $500,000 CAN be used for Special Ed. It appears that we have another erroneous statement from our superintendent.
    When does it end?

  13. With the substantial voter support for maintaining school programs as demonstrated by yesterday's vote, the school committee and their supporters should avoid the mistake made by the budget cutters who overreached with their attempt to flatline the budget. Thursday night the board could adopt a fourth budget that mirrors their proposed budget #3 or makes sufficient and modest additional reductions that ensure no town in the district experiences any tax increase this year. Any temptation to capitalize on the sudden surge of budget support by adding money to the next budget will throw more fuel on the flames of community dissension and division. What's not to like about a school budget that doesn't increase taxes for the second consecutive year? Maybe four will be the magic number.

  14. The budget meeting is at 7 pm in the forum at the High School.

  15. Michael, you must remember that the elderly got a good education and a value to the taxpayer of days gone by. If the elderly, when they were students, were not doing good the parents were asking why and making sure at home the students were doing homework...after the chores were done.

  16. GOOD! Now cut another million and maybe this Mutt will finally pass......Or Not

  17. @Refreshing - "The liberals will never stop until you stop them." What on earth makes you think only liberals voted NO and support out schools?! Never in my life have I been called a liberal, same with many of my friends and relatives who also noted NO and support our schools. And none of us work for RSU9. You really don't know the other side at all. You should step outside your angry bubble sometime.

  18. I think we can all agree that no one likes higher taxes. That being said, I hope we can all realize the importance of having a well rounded school. Having schools in our community that support special needs, arts, and sports creates a draw to our towns. That draw leads to more residents, more business, and a better community!

  19. The budget proposed, before the huge cuts were made had a 2% drop in taxes for local property owners....sonds like the place to be...no huge cuts, no big additions....

  20. Now is a wonderful opportunity to come together as a community and find solutions to the budget crisis going on here not only for this year but thinking ahead to next year. I think some of the parents from students in the special ed program set an amazing example for us all by using funds they raised to save the special ed swim program. If you value a particular program your child is involved with get out there and be proactive, fundraise. Nothing will end up on the chopping block if we plan ahead. Not all tax payers should not have to pay for programs they do not support but there are plenty of us out there that can help make up the difference and keep the programs we value alive and thriving.

  21. @

    Fawzia Radman

    September 13, 2017 • 6:36 am
    .
    "If you take Farmington NO vote, because of the student vote, completely out , NO voters still won. It's a bit like : Somalies and immigrants drive new cars, which were paid by the government!!!!"

    Common math if you take the yes and no votes of Farmington out of the totals the no votes won by roughly 600 votes. What are you talking about? Where is the logic in blaming the UMF students for what we as tax paying citizens voted against. The budget was too low.

    All of you talking about scare tactics of the librials, I have never been called that before by the way, I laugh because as adults we should not be using scare tactics on either side, name calIing or bullying. The last budget should have passed, and if voted on again, I beleive it will. At least it is a compromise.

  22. To " What's in a Name " it is not a SAD, it is an RSU!

  23. I think the budget cutters woulds stand a greater chance of being listened to if they did not resort to some of the tactics of this last go round. The last budget meeting was a disgrace. Some of the comments about special ed students just revealed a mean spirited motivation that had nothing to do with taking care of OUR students while seeking compromise for those taxpayers who struggle. It was clearly scapegoating the most vulnerable among us. It was divisive and shameful.

  24. It's so simple.
    Other schools systems in western Maine have held the line on their school budgets.
    Only the mt blue system increases by over a million dollars year over year.
    Sounds like we need a person at the top who can balance the needs of the taxpayer along with the school system.
    We obviously are in need of such an administrator, as well as school committee members who can do the same.
    The last straw was when we got an additional 800K from the state and decided to spend it rather than decrease the amount to be raised from taxation.

  25. Fred: you may want to review the previous budget proposal....we got about
    $ 790,000 from the state, and all of it was to be used to reduce taxes. Taxes were set to go down by 2%, until the huge cuts were proposed. Now we start again. Will a 2%reduction in assessed taxes for the schools satisfy you?

    You may also want to review which district in Western Maine has the lowest controlled costs for education....it is RSU 9!

    Facts? Yes!

  26. Maybe there should be more home schooling.

  27. @Home school - Home schooling isn't a realistic option for most. Both parents usually have to work. Also, few parents would have the qualifications or training to be effective educators. This is a public school budget discussion, but thank you for pointing out what many want - to get rid of public education or weaken it so much that it's pointless. Perhaps we can go back to the good old days when only the rich kids got an education.

  28. Check it the facts: we are a RSU! There are approximately 64 or so of these. RSU 9 is listed at number 51 for amount of money spent per pupil. Most of the schools behind us are smaller schools. We are not a rich community, and we don't spend like we are. This isn't about the budget any more. Those against the budget have made this very personal, about individuals. No matter who the Superintendent would be the issues would be the same. You could move to Fayette where they are by themselves and see a cost of around $8900.00 per student. Would that make you happy? Your paying roughly $10450.00 per student shared by 10 Districts. Sounds like a bargain to me. If you were really concerned about education, you'd come to the next meeting willing to work with instead of against. But, I am truly afraid that this won't happen because the Pied Piper is still blowing her horn.

  29. To WHO CARES:
    The tax exempt property in the Town of Farmington hovers in the 35% range. Maybe a little more now. But that includes the hospital, the churches, the non-profits if they "own" the building they're in, such as the Historical Society. Pierce House and the Water Dept. are also included in the list. The town puts a "value" on all the properties, but I've discovered that the values tend to be low. That reduces the town's value - help for some of the things at the State level, and hurts us other ways.
    One day I took time to add up the values of all UMF properties; at that time I discovered there were 3 buildings on the campus not even in the list. With the "assumed" value of the buildings (not including the ones missed) times the mill rate of that year, which was about $18.50 that year, if the University were to pay taxes, the sum was roughly $996,000/year. Take that number, times it by 15, and just in the last 15 years, you'll see what we'd have to rebuild roads and help the schools. We could have three Taj Mahals.

  30. It is definitely not true that other districts are doing better than we are with keeping budgets in line. We spend less per pupil than 3/4 of the school districts in Maine, and in this region. We also haven't been losing students as fast as other districts. I would put our budget up against any as a model for frugality. This one gives an historical record - note the average increases across the state in many years are about 5%: http://www.maine.gov/education/data/ppcosts/index.html

    Note that in the first decade of the century average school district increases were up around 5% a year - that's when a lot of new costs got put on the schools. That's when property taxes shot up. We're all dealing with the same kind of demands. Click to get PDFs to compare school districts on many factors. When one actually looks at the data, it shows we compare very well.

  31. NOW WE CAN CUT EVEN MORE FOR THE NEXT ROUND

  32. Let's tax the churches. It's time they pay their way.

  33. @Guppy don't under estimate the homeschooling resources out there. Where there's a will there's a way. I'm not the most intelligent person but I chose to homeschool my special needs son rather than put him in Farmington school. I don't like the negativity, bullying, and the fact special needs are obviously not respected by a lot of people. I mean just look at the comments in the last few days . I've never been so happy about keeping my son home to school him. We pay hundreds in tax dollars to the district every year and I hope someday I'd use them as a resource for my son if they earned that trust but as of now it wouldn't happen . ....ever.

  34. Split the difference, the way democracy was intended, pass it and move on. Both sides will be unhappy. Perfect!
    Of course churches should be taxed, but that will never happen! On the other hand the college is vital to Farmington.

  35. @Home school - I've seen the home schooling resources. It's not actually that impressive. Most home-schooled kids are several grades behind their peers. People love to tout "statistics" that home-schooled kids do better than public school students on certain tests, without factoring in that only excelling home-schooled kids take those tests - which severely skews the results. Many home schooled kids have a very inflated view of their scholastic abilities. It was always interesting to watch the home schooled kids fall apart academically and socially during their first semester of college. I also saw it when people thought they'd come back into the public system "just for high school". There is a huge industry built around home schooling and a lot of it depends on convincing home schooling parents that their kids are getting some sort of advantage. I've also seen the results of kids pulled out of school due to "bullying" several times. It's never pretty. Instead of learning how to deal with these things as a kid with people they can lean on, they end up having to deal with the exact same things as an adult without that support system.

  36. So David, let's tax the churches? Isn't that advocating taxation without representation? It's no secret that the majority of people in this area do not want churchgoers to be involved in societal affairs. Smooth move, tax them, but they can just shut up when it comes to matters of "secular society". Tax the churches and your precious separation of church and state goes bye-bye.

  37. Legislation is needed on several issues involving school budgets. FIRST, one person, the superintendent, and a handful of school board members(with weighted vote system) should NOT have the power to set the tax amounts on real estate. Why do you think 50-60 percent of the tax dollar goes to the RSU? SECOND, limits should be set on how much a budget can increase in any given year. Third, cross section of community members should be mandatory and appointed by selectboard, not elected. Each town should have one rep. on the board and 5 at large, drawn from a pool like jurors. FOURTH, special ed. mandates need serious reworking. All you guys/gals please add more ideas and amendments. Thanks

  38. @Woodsman- you just struck right at the very heart of the problems here. We seriously need to work at implementing every single one of those ideas. HERE, HERE!!

  39. @ Woodsman where in the world do you get off saying Tax amounts on property is set by the school board. The evaluations are set by the State of Maine The board has nothing to do with it. Secondly less the half your taxes go to the school. You can't cap increases you never know what can happen. As for the board you are free to run any year your town has an opening

  40. I like weighted voting, with it each citizen is equally represented, and each towns population is equally represented..1 vote for every 18 citizens....

  41. That's interesting I know if many homeschooled children recently that have attended college and they're doing perfectly fine as a matter of fact half of them are excelling.
    Time have changed and so have the resources for us a homeschoolers. Also my son never started in public school and never will . I see and hear plenty wirh my own eyes to know it still exists and as a parent it's our job to protect them. My son gets plenty of socialization but it monitored and supervised as it should be in our schools here but it's not . It's unfortunate we can't utilize our hard earned tax dollars by sending our special needs son to school but the school quality of education and care isn't up to our standards . Like I said I hope some day that may change but until then he'll have to stay away from " those kind of people ".

  42. We had new voters on the rolls now who will be following up in 30 days to make sure the newly registered change their drivers license and registration on vehicles (which EXCISE TAXES GET COLLECTED)

  43. Before the meeting tonight, I would encourage everyone to view the NCLB District report card. It is on the district web page under "District Information-NCLB report cards. I viewed the District report card.

    Scroll down to pages 19-22. This states that for the 2014-2014 school year, only 42% of students in grades 3-8 were considered proficient in Language Arts/English. This means less than half of students leaving grade 8 are meeting the set state standards. Math is worse off. Only 30% of students in grades 3-8 are proficient.

    High school is even worse. At the high school level (page 21) only 40% of students tested were proficient in Language Arts/English. And only 11% were proficient in math (page 22). WHAT?!?!? How is this even possible? At first I thought I was reading it wrong but sadly I don't think I am.

    It seems to me that there are other problems going on here, and that trying to throw more money at the problems is not going to fix anything. I'm not blaming teachers or administrators, but a school system graduating only 11% of kids that are proficient in math is failing. Something needs to change.

    District Report Card

  44. The issue here is that school is no longer school. It has become a social welfare program rather than a place of education. It has had to become a welfare program out of necessity, yes, but as a result we have all these problems. Schools no longer just educate kids- they feed them for free, counsel them, provide behavioral services, vaccinate them, provide before school and after school child care, etc. So of course all of these extra welfare services cost money.

  45. We need to providr for our schools now how about a Renters Tax FOR EDUCATION? If we want our schools funded why not some parity on who pays for the schools

  46. Captainoblivious,
    The person who owns the rental property pays property taxes. That money comes from the rent. It's silly to argue over who pays more towards our schools. Even people who don't own a home or pay rent here end up funding our school system - through sales tax and income tax. A huge portion of school funding doesn't come from local property taxes.

  47. For those who want to diss our schools and teachers - our district is one of the top 25 in Maine! https://www.niche.com/k12/search/best-school-districts/s/maine/

    About renters - renters pay property taxes indirectly as part of their rent goes to pay property taxes. If property taxes are increased, rents rise. So asking renters to pay more would be to double tax them.

  48. It is good to see that the debate has been shifted away from kids to renters, churches, and homeschooling.These new targets aren't any more culpable but at least the kids are getting a break.

    Perhaps we should focus our attention to the real path to long term relief- holding our elected representatives accountable for passing laws that ensures the state actually pays for what the law requires to be paid towards education. if 1% of the anger that was directed towards "special education" was focused towards our politicians maybe something really important will happen.

  49. Folks, you now know who forced this train wreck on our community. Vote then out. Have a nice day out there.

  50. Rick, not all of the "welfare" you list is paid out of the school budget. They don't pay for the flu shots or before and after school care. The vast majority of kids are not in need of behavioral/social services. The entire country is experiencing a drug crisis and most families have both parents out of the house working. Plus we had a major recession 10 years ago that we haven't recovered from. Back in the day, kids in trouble were left to flounder. Now out of compassion and out of legality (because not everyone has compassion), we try to help. There are a lot of social services and churches and volunteers around the area who do a ton to help. Plus the state and federal governments. None of us want these extra expenses but here they are.

    To all those fighting this budget. If you keep going after the most vulnerable among us and those with learning disabilities, you will lose. When we go back to the drawing board once again, let us remember we that "love one another" stuff that has gone out of fashion apparently. I would never suggest the elderly "just move" anymore than I would want any of you to say that special ed kids should be home sitting in a corner.

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