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Greater Bath voters give initial OK to RSU 1 budget

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Greater Bath voters give initial OK to RSU 1 budget

BATH — More than 125 registered voters took about 90 minutes Tuesday to approve the Regional School Unit 1 budget for fiscal 2014.

The $27.7 million spending plan – which now goes to a June 4 budget validation referendum at polling places in the five RSU 1 communities – reflects a nearly 6.7 percent increase over the current year.

Subtracting offsetting revenues, the amount to come from taxes would be $18.6 million, a nearly 7.2 percent hike.

Through a new cost-sharing formula that assesses the RSU 1 communities on a per-pupil basis, Bath, West Bath and Woolwich stand to see significant school tax increases: 6.3 percent in Bath to $9.1 million, 24.1 percent in West Bath to $2.7 million, and 16.5 percent in Woolwich to $3.6 million.

Arrowsic could enjoy a tax reduction of 2.6 percent, to about $481,000, and Phippsburg school taxes could decline 10.6 percent, to $2.7 million.

The RSU 1 Board of Directors, which approved the budget May 6, had previously added two items to next year's budget: an assistant boys' lacrosse coach for about $2,300, and about $15,000 to the system-wide staff development account.

As urged by several RSU 1 residents, the board also added two teaching positions late last month without increasing the bottom line: a certified health teacher at the middle school level, and a new teaching position at Woolwich Central School.

The latter addresses concerns about the size of the current fifth-grade class at Woolwich Central School, which has one teacher for 28 students.

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. A hearing on a motion to dismiss the case was held May 7, and the parties involved await the judge's decision.

West Bath's lawsuit, filed last October, claims it should have been assessed a total of $8.2 million in fiscal years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, but instead paid $10.1 million. The suit claims RSU 1 owes West Bath $1.9 million, plus interest.

Bath was allowed by a judge to join RSU 1 in its defense of the lawsuit. West Bath also recently included Arrowsic and Woolwich as defendants in the case. All the defendants filed motions to dismiss the case, according to West Bath Town Manager Jonathan Davis.

West Bath claims that Bath, Arrowsic and Woolwich underpaid in the first few years of the district's existence.

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