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RSU 5 board cuts $86K from budget for Freeport, Pownal, Durham

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RSU 5 board cuts $86K from budget for Freeport, Pownal, Durham

FREEPORT — Regional School Unit 5 directors trimmed their proposed operating budget by an additional $86,000 on Wednesday and sent the $23.4 million spending package to a second tri-town meeting on Tuesday, July 21.

The School Board passed the slightly reduced budget 9-2, with Pownal representatives Jen Kaplan and Eric Dube dissenting.

Voters in Freeport, Pownal and Durham rejected the original $23.5 million budget two weeks ago, 661-582.

The new cuts include $10,000 from the business office, $40,000 from the vacated curriculum coordinator position, $3,300 less for a vacated principal position at Freeport Middle School, and $32,500 less for a half-time teacher at Freeport High School.

The reductions initially included cutting one full-time high school teacher at $65,000, but the board added a half position after public discussion with the high school principal. The board also decided against contracting for two buses at $12,000, and opted instead to pay $54,000 a year for a three-year purchase agreement with nearly 100 percent state reimbursement.

Superintendent of Schools Shannon Welsh said the latest cuts mean nearly $745,000 has been cut from the budget since it was first presented on March 28.

"The board has worked hard to make compromises and reductions to the budget," Welch said Thursday morning. "We are hopeful the citizens will support our efforts and commit to looking at the long-term solutions to support a strong educational program and limit future tax impact."

In addition to the changes voted on by the board Wednesday, Durham resident and budget committee member Allan Purinton said the Durham Board of Selectmen recently decided to spread out $498,000 in carry-forward funds over three years. That, coupled with Durham's increase in assessment from $185 million to $190 million, will increase the tax impact on Durham residents.

Purinton said he wanted the public to be aware that Durham residents have already committed to spending a significant amount of their tax dollars on a new elementary school, and the tax increase reflects that debt, not just the cost of consolidation.

According to RSU 5 Business Manager Diane Boucher, Wednesday's budget reduction, the change in Durham's valuation and the decision to spread the carry-forward funds over three years will increase Durham's tax from $98 per $100,000 of assessed value this year to $242 per $100,000 of assessed value in fiscal 2010. Boucher, like Purinton, said nearly $75 of the $242 is attributed to the new school. The changes will result in a tax increase of 19.2 percent, versus a 7 percent increase that would have occurred under the budget rejected by voters on June 25.

Pownal's valuation also increased from $72.4 million to $73.4 million, but with the $86,000 budget reduction, Boucher said the tax increase there will be reduced 1 percent to 25 percent – still a $330,000 increase over this year. Residents will pay $450 per $100,000 of assessed value.

Freeport's valuation did not change, and residents will experience a greater reduction in taxes due to the budget reductions made Wednesday night – $168,000 less than this year, a 1.28 percent reduction. They will pay $11 less per $100,000 of assessed value.

Welsh said it is important for residents to know that reductions made Wednesday will reduce the total RSU budget, but residents of Pownal, Durham, and Freeport pay taxes only on the $22.7 million operating budget. She said the total budget of $23.4 also includes $620 million in stimulus money from the federal government and separate spending of $83,000 for adult education.

Residents from all three towns will gather on Tuesday, July 21, at 6 p.m. in the Freeport High School gymnasium to vote on the warrant articles that make up the budget. After the budget is approved, a second budget validation referendum will be held in each town on July 28.

To view the entire budget, visit the RSU 5 Web site.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net