Franklin Countys First News

RSU 9 vote on $35.5 million budget is Tuesday

Residents of all 10 towns will go to the polls Tuesday, May 15, to cast ballots on the $35.5 million budget for Regional School Unit 9 set at last week's district-wide budget meeting.

At that May 7 meeting, more than 350 residents approved the $35,547,403 budget recommended by the school board. That budget, representing an increase of $1.9 million over the current fiscal year or 5.68 percent, includes a number of new teaching and support positions, including an additional Cascade Brook School teacher for Grade 3, relating to class size, increasing part-time positions to bring American Sign Language and science teaching positions at the MBHS to full-time, an accountant in the business office and a part-time nursing position.

It also includes funds for the Pathways for All Learners program, which would use specialized personnel to assist two cohorts of students: a grade K-2 group and a grade 3-5 group. The 16 students in the combined groups would qualify through their apparent inability to regulate their own behavior - examples previously provided by teachers and administrators include physical and verbal aggression towards staff and students, threats of self-harm, destroying class equipment and forcing their peers to leave the classroom. Administrators foresee rotating students in and out of the PALs program as necessary, utilizing a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, a social worker, two teachers and six Ed Techs to staff the program.

Also included in the budget is $288,000 in funds donated by Richard Bjorn to benefit the Foster Career & Technical Education Center. Those funds are included in the Career & Technical Education budget, where they will pay for program improvements such as expanding Composites to a full-time course, creating a pre-engineering course and an introductory program to Foster Tech for 8th graders and underclassmen.

In total, not including Bjorn's donation and some other miscellaneous funds, the budget would be funded by roughly $13.3 million from local town assessments and $21 million from the state allocation, an increase of $750,000.

The proposed budget would result in a 6.25 percent increase in local assessments. Specifically, Chesterville would see a $116,428 increase to $1.05 million, or 12.4 percent; Farmington would see a $248,819 increase to $4.77 million, or 5.5 percent; Industry would see a $104,147 increase to $924,000, or 12.7 percent; New Sharon would see a $48,311 increase to $1.05 million, or 4.8 percent; New Vineyard would see a $42,515 increase to $743,000, or 6.1 percent; Starks would see an $83,029 increase to $463,000, or 21.8 percent; Temple would see a $6,129 increase to $425,000, or 1.5 percent; Vienna would see a $36,470 increase to $722,000, or 5.3 percent; Weld would see a $60,815 increase to $524,000, or 13.1 percent; and Wilton would see a $46,227 increase to $2.82 million, or 1.7 percent.

 

At tomorrow's validation referendum, voters will be asked to either validate the budget with a 'yes' vote or reject it with a 'no' vote. Poll times vary from town to town, and are set by the town clerks.

Poll times for the May 15 vote are:

Chesterville - 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Industry - 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.
New Vineyard - 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Temple - 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Weld - 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Farmington - 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.
New Sharon - 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Starks - 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Vienna - 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Wilton - 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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28 Responses »

  1. After the school budget was voted down so many times last year, why is the school district and board proposing such a high increase? It shows a complete disregard to what happened last year (and previous years) when even smaller increases to the budget were repeatedly voted down. Is the plan to rally as many YES voters as possible in order to out vote the NO voters? Even if the budget passes that way, it will not be a victory. It will leave a lot of people very unhappy and polarize the community even more than it is now. Is that the way to operate the community's school...to be at odds with citizens? The school needs to be in balance and in harmony with the community. This division is wrong and the school district and Board are responsible for it. Their actions and comments have fueled the conflict between the YES and NO voters. School officials and the Board should have been willing to compromise instead of moving forward with this huge increase.

    Please vote NO and send the budget back to the Board so they can come up with a budget that is closer to being satisfactory for everyone.

  2. Lindy is right.

  3. People are questioning "why?" at this point of time, WHY? Several conjectures about why such a huge increase in the school budget. So many in our communities struggling to keep up with the rising cost in food, health care, gasoline, heating oil/propane and then the tax bill is dropped on them. Our elderly and poorer citizens completely forgotten in order to satisfy the desires and demands of "Our community school", which in conjunction with the church used to be the center, the gathering places for social events, a place where neighbors and friends met. NO MORE, as a big division has occurred, bad feelings exist AND ONE ASKS "WHY?" PLEASE VOTE NO to tell them people are hurting, that the schools can get by just fine with less than the are asking!

  4. I checked to see what my taxes will likely be for our house in Wilton. Looks like about a 2 % increase in the school portion, which should be about a 1 to 1.5 % increase in our property tax due to schools. (Of course the rest of the taxes go to fire protection, our police team, roads, library, etc.) So for this budget increase for schools, our property taxes will go up about $ 26 to $30 for year.

    Our house is assessed at about $150,000, and our tax bill will go up about 26 dollars a year. Even if my back of the envelop estimate is off, we can afford the $26 for the year, even up to $ 52 dollars for the year.

    Because Wilton's school taxes have gone down each of the last two years, we will still be paying less than we were three years ago.

    We will be voting yes because of the value of education, and because of how low our Board has kept costs over the years. 177th lowest cost per pupil in the state of Maine.

    I looked at the Department of Education's web site, and RSU 9 costs way less than the average in Maine.

    We should be thanking the Bjornes for their generosity, and the State of Maine for the higher funding level this year. Between these two funding sources, more than half of the increase has been covered.

  5. Well written Lindy. A No vote is the most sensible decision today.

  6. @Its me,

    Not so in other towns that will have a percentage increase in the double digits.

    And those towns tend to have poorer families.

  7. To Its Me......To be accurate, your taxes haven't gone up in the last couple of years because of additional State funding, some other temporary funds that applied, and because the budget was voted down in referendums which forced the Board to make cuts. That extra State funding was above and beyond regular State funding and unfortunately, its continuation is unknown and probably unlikely. Without it next year and the following years, local property taxes will have to increase to make up that funding loss. In light of that, the school should be keeping costs down as much as possible, especially in this area with such a limited tax base. The $1.9 million increase is short sighted.

  8. WE WILL BE VOTING NO.

  9. Lindy, I disagree. Education is the long term. We have underfunded our district for years. We should use the state funding, and have. We are one of the lowest cost districts in Maine. Should we go for the average cost, like our County Commissioners are doing? No, I don't think so. We are well below the average cost, and will stay well below the average cost.

  10. This is a very complicated issue and I'm on the fence as far as how I will vote today. There are layers of issues at hand, and many are beyond our control. The state doesn't fund it's share of local school costs. I've never understood why the state has been allowed to get away with that. I don't know how we can change it.

    After teaching for more than 3 decades in Maine, I taught so many emotionally disturbed students in my classes over the years. In the US and in Maine, we bend over backwards to include everyone. Do you know what it feels like to put so much of your life's energy into teaching, and to have a handful of students each year destroy the learning by playing out their unaddressed emotional needs? On one hand, you feel so sorry for them and their sad lives, but on the other hand - they are dragging the whole class and the learning down. That's huge.

    We try so hard to be competitive with other industrialized nations. We have and still do spend a huge amount of time trying to get our students to improve their test scores and measure up to those other countries, but we never do. How many of those countries that lead the world in education allow their students with behavioral issues to
    stay in the classroom if they continue to disrupt?

    If more parents saw what regularly goes on in their child's classrooms, they would be screaming for change. It's very hard as a student, a parent, or as a teacher, to watch the well behaved majority have the classroom so dominated with disruptive behavior.

    If the students were asked their opinions of The Pathways for All Program, I think the majority would support it, because they know what they have had to go through. They can't ask their questions or get their needs met. They've had to watch emotional scenes play out. This program is as much about meeting their needs as those with the behavioral issues.

    So after saying all that, you would think I would be for this proposed Pathways for All Program. As a teacher, I would have loved it that I could finally teach my class without the regular outbursts and disruptions.

    As a local tax payer, I'd like to sell my house and rent from now on. As a retired person, I don't think I should have to continue to pay money towards the schools. I think the town should cap it at like 20 years of paying the school portion of the local tax bill, or when you turn 60 years old. On a fixed income, it won't take too long for the school portion of the yearly tax bill to eat up a good amount of the money you need to survive on. It's just not right.

    Other than The Pathways for All Program, I totally support the budget, so it's hard to say how I will vote today.

  11. Voting YES, because the PALs program is a good idea that will help *all the kids* in the schools where it's implemented. Kids are future voters, caretakers, service professionals, healthcare workers. All the things. We don't live in a vacuum. We will depend on these kids. This school district does a good job at keeping the cost-per-pupil low.

    It's not the schools that are hurting elderly, disabled, and poor folks the most. Maybe look at how schools are funded in general. Maybe single payer healthcare is a good idea. And living wages. And not demonizing social safety nets. If we want to keep prices low and not pay living wages, then people are going to need cost of living covered in other ways. If we want to move beyond that, we need to address what's actually holding people back, because it's not laziness, spendthriftiness, or the school budget.

    Stop demonizing the school budget and start working on systemic solutions to systemic problems.

    I'm tired of watching neighbors fighting over scraps. For *decades*. It's embarrassing and depressing.

  12. Already voted yes. I want better than "good enough" and "it was fine when I went through," for my kids.

  13. Increasing property taxes is challenging and few people like to see an increase in price of anything. However, we have to prioritize the quality of our schools. Good schools increase property values and attract people to the area. But, good schools require funding.

    On this forum, it isn't unusual to hear of (legitimate) complaints of people's costs rising across the board for many different services and goods. Why are you outraged at school teachers and elected school board members? Shouldn't your outrage be directed at State legislators and the Governor for failing to bring any meaningful property tax relief to our communities, oil companies for conveniently rising prices before Memorial Day, whoever may be responsible for increases in grocery prices.

    Quality education requires an investment. If we fail to do so in our society today, we increase the possibility of having schools be unable to graduate students with skills and knowledge to contribute in society which in turn increases our need to fight crime, pay for unemployment and public assistance, and other significant resource-intensive endeavors. A dollar invested today for schools is many dollars saved for years to come.

  14. Lindy: To be accurate: the assessed property values in Wilton have gone down too. Lower total assessed values by the state reduces cost for Wilton, when other towns are increasing in assessed values. Since values are based on appraised or assessed values of existing properties, and added to by new construction, looks like Wiltons recovery from the Housing bubble is slower than other towns.

    Also lots like other towns may have faster growth due to location, and increased selling prices for existing homes. Increased selling prices are indicative of a recovering economy, as is the record low unemployment rate, and the growth in the state economy.

    Just to be accurate, many factors are involved, including our state requiring an increase in education mill rate at for all towns.

    Maybe time to demand real property tax relief for senior homeowners....say on fifty percent of the assessed value on the first $200,000 a property is worth......

  15. Folks if your a home owner and blame the state for not paying there share I have a great news announcement, you infact pay state taxes aswell, there is no way to pass the buck along, you either pay the piper or vote it down to easy. Let's not try to act over edjumacated.

  16. I am confused by some comments here about people struggling to pay their taxes. According to our President, things have never been better. The economy is booming as Wall Street is at an all time high, unemployment is almost zero and the EPA has made it easier fro companies to do business, especially coal. Finally, there was the huge tax cut passed in Washington. All of these economic indicators point to huge profits for companies and we were all told the corporations will share it, create better paying jobs etc.
    The theory is that yes, costs will rise as companies pay employees more (basic principle of inflation), but people will in turn have more money to spend and the gains will be greater than the losses.
    So, has anyone gotten a decent pay raise thanks to the new federal tax cuts?
    Where is our Congressman when we need him as I am sure he can help explain how small towns like those in Franklin county are supposed to benefit from all of these corporate breaks. I would love to see an actual balance sheet with real data, not hypothetical data, that shows how our county has benefited by these policies.

    I don't think we are alone as all over the country we are seeing teacher walkouts as they are not getting pay raises or help with school supply costs.

    I don't have the answers. I understand the rising costs in schools but I also see very clearly that people are not doing well in this economy. Short term, there is no easy solution and a vote comes down to what each individual can afford. At the end of the day, we can only have the education system we can afford. Unfortunately, this does not usually equate into the educational system we need and want. This has a devastating affect on the region as we will continue to see more and more younger people leaving the area.
    Here is an open question to ponder. When will we get elected leaders who actually understand the economics in our town? The RSU 9 budget fight is a symptom of the problem, not the cause.
    Everyone should vote and they should vote based on what they can afford.

  17. Vote yes. Good education is good for everyone.

  18. Well if you think about it, the school board is like a used cars sales person they will set the budge high and when it gets voted down they will make a compromise somewhere in the middle. In mind the board never intended the high rate to begin with from the start that way the board saves face either way so lets get real keep voting no and don't get scammed buy the used car dealer

  19. brilliant idea, grizz. keep saying "no" to the used-car dealer's offers and you'll end up without a car.

  20. To clarify Travis’ previous comments- in fact property owners do pay both income and property taxes. However, local property taxes are more burdensome, have more volatility and are what are hurting property owners on a fixed ncome. Conversely, a small increase in other taxes (sales or income) can be absorbed more easily because more people (across the State) shoulder the load. Again, our frustration should be with the State government, not our small district asking for modest changes to improve education. In fact, this increase proposed is still underfunding our schools.

  21. Folks, remember the state funding of schools comes from a much broader base than property taxes.

    As the economy grows, so does the income to the state from taxes. Over time, as the economy grows, our state has cut income taxes, increased funding to schools, and still brought in more income than they had expected. Broader tax base for the state, and greater funding to schools from the state, is fairer to property owners on fixed incomes.

    How many times in the last 7 years have income taxes been cut in Maine? Three?

    How many times has our state increased the mil rate for property owners to fund schools, and qualify for their share of state funding? Two?

  22. myopic, more money doesn't keep schools safer as they are advertising, REALLY also look out side the box for what the board did in the past its just good sense to vote no the school will always run but they have the be more realistic it takes good parents to help good schools just saying

  23. Why don't the budget requests for the PDs and Fire depts get the same scrutiny that we spend(or not) on the kids?

  24. I do agree with you captain

  25. To the person who responded to my comment without a real name, there is a difference between essential and non essential programs the state is currently funding beyond its requirements.

  26. I just loved the Blue and Yellow signs. Got thinking about it, tho. Vote Yes for Great Schools. It would appear the opinion is that the only way we're going to have Great Schools is to throw more money at them. I would think GOOD TEACHERS and GOOD STUDENTS, not the money, WOULD MAKE GOOD SCHOOLS. Or did I miss something?

  27. Simple Simon, how would you propose that we get and keep good teachers if we don't pay them accordingly and get them the supplies they need to make our schools great for our kids? And good students are made at home first by instilling a sense of responsibility and purpose in them before they go to school. Then teachers would not have to spend valuable time parenting as well as teaching.

  28. In most professions a choice is made between the atmosphere of a work place, the pay and benefits, and the commute. Like Meatloaf said "2 out of 3 ain't bad." My guess is most employees within the district are getting 2 of the 3 at a level they can accept, or they would move on.

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