Freeport-Pownal-Durham board proposes 7.2% school budget increase

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FREEPORT — The Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors is proposing a 7.2 percent budget increase.

RSU 5 board members and Town Councilors, along with selectmen from Durham and Pownal, discussed the budget in a May 11 workshop. The budget of $29.3 million was expected to be voted on Wednesday night by the School Board.

Interim Superintendent William Michaud on Monday said the board had originally talked about having a budget of $28.2 million, which would be an increase of 3.37 percent from the current year. This would have been a “no new spending” budget and the increase would have come only from increased costs of things such as electricity, fuel, heating, and insurance.

The board also created a three-tier system to evaluate the district’s needs. Each tier adjusted the budget to accommodate more needs. According to Michaud, the board decided to present a budget that it includes tiers one and two, as well as certain aspects of tier three.

Tier one, called “mission critical,” was a $28.9 million budget, or a 5.89 percent increase. It includes expenditures such as the interest on the renovation at the high school, and hiring new educational technicians, instructional strategists, and custodians.

Michaud said paying for the interest on the renovation project now will save money in the long run.

“This is a situation where a $219,000 expenditure now saves the communities $1.29 million over the course of the project,” he said.

Tier two, called “necessary increases,” was a $29.2 million budget, or a 6.85 percent increase. It includes spending on technology, athletics, professional development at the high school, a preschool program in Durham, and various new hires in different departments.

Tier three, called “reasonable increases,” was a budget of $29.8 million, or a 9.15 percent increase. Michaud said this tier had various expenditures, but the ones approved as part of the budget were additional guidance at Pownal Elementary School, increasing the Freeport Middle School assistant principal to a full-time position, purchasing a new score board for the high school, additional math strategists, and funds for music and art programs and supplies.

The impact on taxes was not provided, because the board chose to move forward with tiers one and two, and only part of tier three. The tax impact for tier two would be a 5.75 percent increase for Freeport, 7.75 percent for Durham, and 7.67 percent for Pownal.

The tax impact for tier three would be a 7.57 percent increase for Freeport, 10.18 percent for Durham, and 9.97 percent for Pownal.

Freeport Town Manager Peter Joseph also presented the municipal budget to RSU 5 board members. The budget of $9.3 million was originally presented to councilors last week. The increase of just over $388,000 would bring a tax increase of 1.18 percent, or 4.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

There will be a public hearing June 2 to discuss the municipal budget. It is scheduled to be adopted June 16.

The RSU 5 budget will be voted on by Freeport, Durham, and Pownal residents in town meeting style on May 27, according to the district’s website. There will also be a June 9 referendum in each town to finalize the vote.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.