Board OKs $25.6M school budget for Bath, RSU 1

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Jobs will be lost despite 2.5% tax increase

BATH — The Regional School Unit 1 Board of Directors approved a $25.6 million fiscal 2012 budget Tuesday by a 5-2 vote.

The spending plan will now go before voters in the five RSU 1 communities in a district budget meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 31, at Bath Middle School. A budget validation referendum is scheduled for June 7.

The budget reflects a 2.5 percent tax increase over the current year – a more than $413,000 hike, to nearly $17 million. The budget itself is up nearly 3 percent, or about $730,000.

A $1.1 million state and federal revenue decline contributed largely to the need for higher taxes, Superintendent of Schools William Shuttleworth has said.

Shuttleworth on Tuesday offered the panel two final options, both with 2.5 percent tax increases. One eliminated a Bath Middle School home economics position, but filled an elementary teaching position at the Dike-Newell School that had been opened by a retirement. The other option restored the home economics teacher, but did not fill the elementary position.

School Board member Alan Walton, who supported the home economics position, voted with Chet Garrison against the budget.

Dike-Newell Principal Sally Brown noted that her school’s pre-kindergarten to second-grade students are the youngest in Bath.

“What we have to offer at Dike-Newell School is good core instruction,” she said. “We do not have band, chorus, foreign language, home economics, we do not have a certified librarian. We have classrooms of reasonable side and good instruction.”

Eliminating a second-grade teacher there would create classes of about 23 students, Brown said.

“We are bare bones at Dike-Newell,” she said. “We would like to maintain our classrooms for our core instruction, so that these kids can learn to read, and write, and do math.”

Explaining his stance on the budget, Garrison said people have told him they have a single concern: to not have to pay more taxes.

“They respect and appreciate what our administrators and teachers are doing for our children,” he said. “Most have said they would be willing to pay a little more as long as everyone else is willing to share in the sacrifices that must be made. But this is not the case.

“I too find it disheartening and frustrating that RSU 1 will be losing some of its best and brightest teachers, but this situation is beyond our immediate control,” he continued. “We have heard people say that the budget should not be put on the backs of the teachers. I absolutely agree, but at the same time we cannot continue to put the complete burden on the backs of the people who have the least ability to pay.”

Positions to be cut, besides the Bath Middle School home economics teacher, include four Morse High School teachers; an educational technician job and a Woolwich fourth-grade teaching job (both vacated by retiring employees); a technology integration specialist (a job that may be absorbed elsewhere); a computer technology teacher at the Bath Regional Career and Technical Center; two district-wide elementary foreign language teachers, and two educational technicians.

“We are losing good people, and that’s the hardest part about (being) a superintendent,” Shuttleworth said. “I hired most of these people that we have let go. I have seen the value that they have. And in the perfect world, if you could eliminate the position and not know the quality of the person, it would make it a little bit easier. But we know who these people are, and the gifts that they have provided to the district.”

With a 2.5 percent tax hike, Bath’s contribution would rise 4.36 percent to $8.1 million; Arrowsic’s would increase 4.83 percent to nearly $426,000; West Bath’s, 3.55 percent to $2.6 million, and Woolwich’s, 2.86 percent to $3.1 million.

Phippsburg’s tax burden would drop 4.24 percent to $2.7 million.

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.