Grant, insurance savings help RSU 1 trim proposed budget

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BATH — Thanks to a regional grant and savings in insurance rates, Regional School Unit 1 was able to shave $113,000 off its proposed fiscal 2018 budget, reducing the total to about $29 million.

A $518,000 Maine Department of Education grant to develop a regional program, allowed RSU 1 to reduce complete out-of-district tuition costs for a total savings of about $95,000, RSU 1 Business Manager Debra Clark said in an interview Tuesday.

The Sheepscot Regional Education Program, led by the Wiscasset School Department, also involves RSU 1, RSU 12 (Alna, Chelsea, Palermo, Somerville, Westport Island, Whitefield and Windsor), Alternative Organizational Structure 93 (Damariscotta), and AOS 98 (Boothbay Harbor), according to Clark.

Because of the award, RSU 1 district officials are confident they can reap tuition savings from their original budget proposal, Clark said. A related question was the only public comment at a budget hearing held at Bath Middle School Monday, she noted. The first hearing, held earlier this month, drew no comment.

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

After the $113,000 cut, another $2,000 was added to the proposed budget toward adult education, bringing the net decrease to $111,000.

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

The draft budget calls for a 2.9 percent spending increase, which could result in a 4.5 percent overall hike in the tax rate.

Spending would increase by $715,000 to $29 million. 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 RSU 1 Board of Directors is due to vote on the proposed budget at its Monday, May 8 meeting, at Bath Middle School at 6 p.m. Voters will then tackle it twice – at the May 30 district budget meeting at Bath Middle School at 6 p.m., and at the June 13 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.