Regional School Unit 1 voters OK $27.7M school budget

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BATH — Voters in Regional School Unit 1 gave final approval Tuesday to next year’s $27.7 million budget.

According to unofficial numbers, the budget passed 456-294, with support in four of the five RSU communities.

It carried 180-139 in Bath, 44-4 in Arrowsic, 101-23 in Phippsburg, and 87-49 in Woolwich. It was defeated in West Bath, 79-44.

Voters also OK’d continuing the budget validation process for another three years by a vote of 433-308.

The fiscal 2014 spending plan, which received preliminary approval May 28, will increase nearly 6.7 percent over this year’s budget. With offsetting revenues subtracted, $18.6 million comes from taxes, 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 will 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 experience a tax reduction of 2.6 percent, to about $481,000, and Phippsburg school taxes could drop 10.6 percent to $2.7 million.

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 were still awaiting the judge’s decision early this week.

West Bath’s lawsuit, filed last October, claims it 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.

Bath was permitted by a judge to join RSU 1 in its defense of the lawsuit, and West Bath also included Arrowsic and Woolwich as defendants in the case. All the defendants filed motions to dismiss the case.

West Bath claims that Bath, Arrowsic and Woolwich underpaid in the first few years of RSU 1’s existence.

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

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.