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RSU 1 budget calls for overall tax hike of more than 3%

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RSU 1 budget calls for overall tax hike of more than 3%

BATH — The Regional School Unit 1 budget could increase 2.3 percent in fiscal 2015, while the amount to come from taxes could rise 3.2 percent.

A public forum on the spending plan will be held at Bath Middle School at 6 p.m. Monday, April 7.

The budget could reach $28.4 million, with $18.8 million from taxpayers, according to information provided this week by Finance Director Ruth Moore. The district could receive $8.9 million in state subsidy, an increase of approximately $53,000.

The local contribution for each of the RSU's five communities be $9.2 million from Bath, up 2.9 percent; Arrowsic, nearly $436,000, down 8.1 percent; Phippsburg, $2.8 million, up 5.5 percent; West Bath, $2.7 million, up 2.3 percent, and Woolwich, $3.7 million, up 4.5 percent.

Local contribution is based on a cost-per-pupil formula, determined after subtracting debt service ($1.8 million) and miscellaneous revenues ($707,000) from the budget, and dividing by total enrollment.

While subsidies and special education reimbursements the district receives had been spread among all five communities, a new formula adopted by RSU 1 voters last year directs those funds to the communities generating the revenues. Bath and Woolwich receive subsidies, while Arrowsic and Phippsburg receive a special education reimbursement. West Bath receives neither.

Proposed increases in the budget include about $67,000 each for a high school alternative education teacher and expansion of the life skills program at the elementary school level; about $17,000 for expansion of the pre-kindergarten program; $30,000 toward a guidance position at Woolwich Central School; nearly $40,000 toward an educational technician at Fisher-Mitchell elementary school, and about $10,000 for increase of the choral program at Morse High School.

Suggested reductions totalling about $161,000 include half a full-time special education teacher at Phippsburg Elementary School, half a full-time teacher at Bath Regional Career and Technical Center, and not replacing a retiring classroom teacher at the Dike-Newell elementary school.

The budget's potential increase of nearly $638,000 includes hikes of about $459,000 for salaries and benefits, and nearly $293,000 for expenses such as maintenance, professional services, leases, adult education, capital improvements, office expenses, and contingency.

Also reflected is a decrease of about $234,000 in tuition expenses, due to a reduced number of grandfathered students and their siblings for whom RSU 1 has been paying out-of-district tuition, and a decreased number of special education students sent outside the district.

Meanwhile, West Bath is suing RSU 1 to recover $1.9 million the town believes it overpaid in the first four years of the school district's existence. The lawsuit, filed in October 2012, claims West Bath should have been assessed a total of $8.2 million over the course of four years, but instead paid $10.1 million. The suit claims RSU 1 owes West Bath $1.9 million, plus interest.

West Bath residents also voted by about a 3-1 margin Jan. 21 to initiate the process of withdrawing from the RSU, which was created in 2008. A committee is developing an agreement for the town's withdrawal, and a second referendum is required for West Bath to officially withdraw.

RSU 1 residents will vote twice on next year's budget – at a Town Meeting-style gathering May 27, and a budget validation referendum June 10.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.