More than a dozen jobs at risk in Bath school district

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BATH — Regional School Unit 1 may have to eliminate more than a dozen jobs to shave its proposed fiscal 2012 tax increase to about 3 percent.

The school district faces a potential $1.1 million loss of state and federal revenue. That reduction would contribute to an overall tax increase of nearly $2 million, or 11.88 percent, to $18.5 million for the district’s five communities.

Rather than propose a nearly 12 percent tax increase, RSU 1 Superintendent William Shuttleworth is presenting the School Board with three scenarios, for tax increases of 2.99 percent, 2 percent and 0 percent.

Under the nearly 3 percent tax hike, Shuttleworth is recommending 13.5 positions be cut across the district, 12.5 of which are currently filled.

They include five teachers and one educational technician at Morse High School; a teacher at the Bath Regional Career and Technical Center; elementary music, art and home economics teachers at Bath Middle School; an elementary world language teacher; a vacant elementary teacher position, and an elementary educational technician. A district-wide secretary’s hours would also be cut by nearly half.

Under the nearly 3 percent increase, the tax impact would be about a 5 percent increase, to $8.2 million, in Bath; a nearly 6 percent increase to about $430,000 in Arrowsic; a nearly 4 percent decrease to $2.7 million in Phippsburg; a 3.8 percent increase to $2.6 million in West Bath, and an approximately 3 percent increase to $3.1 million in Woolwich. Taxes would total about $17 million.

Shuttleworth said a point was made not to cut any elementary classroom teachers, noting that “we’re able to preserve the teacher-pupil ratios that we think are essential to student learning.”

There should never be any class at Morse High School larger than 25 to 27 students, he added.

With any further cuts, Shuttleworth said, “it begins to hurt our outcomes. … The public can’t expect that you can cut a million and a half dollars out of a budget without a (student educational) response cost.”

He said he understands that “the public can only afford so much of a tax increase. Many of them are not working; it’s been tough economically. So you have that constant balance … the ability of the taxpayers to support the schools and the needs of the kids, and how do you do that delicate balance? And that’s the tough one.”

Shuttleworth said “it simply is too bad in our society that we have to balance the needs of our children because of national priorities that essentially have destroyed our economy. … National priorities of giving outrageous tax benefits to the rich, that puts the burden on the common worker … (and of spending) a billions dollars a day fighting wars that have no value to us. I think these are tough decisions that have affected our kids strongly.”

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.