Bath-area voters give initial OK to school budget

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BATH — With a show of hands, Regional School Unit 1 voters on Tuesday approved the line items in a proposed $29 million budget.

The Bath Middle School meeting, which drew 38 voters and took about 40 minutes, preceded a June 13 budget validation referendum, which will complete the fiscal 2018 budget approval process.

Polling will occur from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. at Bath Middle School, the Phippsburg Town Office, and Woolwich Central School, and from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. at Arrowsic Town Hall.

Speaking Wednesday on what he thought contributed to an apparently smooth budget process, which drew little public comment over the course of recent RSU 1 Board of Directors meetings, Superintendent Patrick Manuel said, “I think our board has worked hard to be transparent (and) responsible.

“There’s also been some continuity on our board, which I think helps with people trusting the process,” he added. “… We’ve never had a lot (of community participation), but we’ve usually had more … than we’ve had this year.”

RSU 1’s 2.9 percent spending increase could result in a 4.5 percent overall hike in the tax rate.

Next year’s spending is proposed to increase by $715,000. Of the total, $17.8 million could come from taxes – up about $664,000 from the current year.

The tax impact across RSU 1’s four communities is estimated at $10.1 million in Bath, up 3.7 percent; $544,000 in Arrowsic, up 7.2 percent; $3.1 million in Phippsburg, up 3.4 percent, and $4 million for Woolwich, up 4.2 percent.

The district’s Anthem Health Insurance rates, for which a 7 percent increase had originally been budgeted, came in at 5.5 percent, saving RSU 1 about $17,000.

RSU 1 expects to receive $9.4 million in state aid, up $74,000.

While almost every warrant article was decided by a show of hands, the state required one to be determined by written ballot: Article 15, asking whether RSU 1 should raise $3.5 million in additional local funds – exceeding the state’s Essential Programs and Services allocation by $2.9 million – passed, 37-1.

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

The Regional School Unit 1 district budget meeting, held Tuesday, May 30, at Bath Middle School, drew 38 voters from the four-community district.

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.