Bath-area School Board OKs $27M budget

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BATH — The proposed Regional School Unit 1 budget is now in the hands of voters.

The RSU 1 Board of Directors on Monday unanimously approved the $27.3 million spending plan, which voters will first consider in a district-wide meeting at Bath Middle School at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 26. The budget will then go to a referendum on Tuesday, June 9.

The only change in the budget since two public hearings last month is a $20,000 drop in state subsidy from the anticipated number, Business Manager Debra Clark said Tuesday. That nearly $9 million subsidy is still about $151,000 more than RSU 1 received for the current fiscal year.

As a result, the impact on the district’s four communities has changed slightly. Bath could pay $9.6 million in taxes, a hike of 4.7 percent; Arrowsic, about $452,000, up 3.9 percent; Phippsburg, nearly $3 million, up 6.5 percent; and Woolwich, $3.8 million, up 3.7 percent.

The proposed budget is down 3.6 percent from current spending. The major contributor to the decline is the loss of West Bath, which voted overwhelmingly last December to leave the school district at the end of June.

RSU 1’s total local contribution for this fiscal year was $18.8 million. Without West Bath, the tax contribution would have been $16.1 million. Total local taxes for next year could be $16.8 million, or an apples-to-apples increase of 4.8 percent.

Of that hike, 3.1 percent would be due to additional expenses, while 1.7 percent, or about $273,000, is the net impact of West Bath’s withdrawal: loss of both revenue and expenses from the town, and additional state and tuition revenue to the district, Clark has said.

While there has been public support for Phippsburg’s band program to be increased by an additional half day per week, which would cost about $7,000, and Woolwich’s art program to expand from four to five days a week, costing about $11,000, those items remain unfunded.

But the School Board has encouraged the public to attend the May 26 meeting and advocate for the additions, which could go to a floor vote.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.