Bath-area school district projects nearly 3% spending hike

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BATH — The first draft of the Regional School Unit 1 fiscal 2018 budget calls for a 2.9 percent spending increase.

It could result in a 4.5 percent overall tax rate hike.

The budget as presented Monday, March 27, would increase $826,000 to $29.1 million. Of the total, $17.9 million could come from taxes – up about $775,000 from the current year.

The tax impact across RSU 1’s four communities could be $10.1 million in Bath, up 4.4 percent; nearly $547,000 in Arrowsic, up 7.6 percent; $3.1 million in Phippsburg, up 3.9 percent, and $4.1 million for Woolwich, up 4.9 percent.

Two other major revenue sources – state subsidy and tuition – both include minor increases. RSU 1 expects to receive $9.4 million in state aid, up $74,000, and $1.2 million in tuition, up nearly $140,000.

RSU 1 has less in the balance forwarded and available to use in next year’s budget – $450,000, compared with $700,000 this year – resulting in a drop in that revenue line.

Salaries and benefits, which comprise nearly 69 percent of the budget, total nearly $20,000, or an increase of 4.2 percent. The hike includes about $250,000 for five proposed new positions – four special educational technicians and a Morse High School study hall monitor – as well as roughly 2 percent in contracted wage increases.

Debt service is down to $2 million, a 16 percent decrease, thanks largely to a vocational school addition and renovation loan from 1996 being paid off, RSU 1 Business Manager Debra Clark said in an interview Tuesday.

Tuition expenses could increase to about $851,000, a 35 percent hike, due to a rise in out-of-district special education student placements.

Energy costs could be down 19.5 percent, to reach $755,000, due to the district renegotiating its fuel bid, Clark explained.

A budget public forum is to be held at Bath Middle School at 6 p.m. Monday, April 3. Another hearing will take place as part of the RSU 1 Board of Directors meeting, to be held at the same place and time Monday, April 24.

The board is due to vote on the spending plan May 8, and send it to district voters at the May 30 district budget meeting, to take place at Bath Middle School at 6 p.m. Voters will weigh the budget a second and final time at June 13’s budget validation referendum.

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

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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.