FREEPORT — Regional School Unit 5 directors approved a $23.5 million budget for fiscal year 2010 Wednesday night.
Members of the Freeport-Pownal-Durham School Board evaluated and voted on each of the 11 warrant articles and reduced the budget by an additional $49,000. A $30,000 proposal for an athletic trainer was cut, and a $19,000 correction was made to employee benefits in the business office.
Pownal representatives Jen Kaplan and Eric Dube advocated additional budget cuts, but their amendments were not approved. Kaplan said she is a proponent of education, but was also obligated to represent the concerns of her constituents who face a large tax increase. She said there are discrepancies on many line items in the budget – for library book costs, nurses’ wages and guidance staff – and asked her colleagues to consider sharing services.
“Pownal is paying a lot, and seeing no service improvements,” she said.
Pownal residents face a nearly 36 percent increase in taxes due to uncharacteristic valuation spikes, a lower carry-forward balance and costs due to consolidation. The Freeport School Committee voted Monday in a special meeting to waive $44,000 in tuition fees for Maine School Administrative District 62.
The money returned to Pownal is part of a tuition agreement SAD 62 has had with Freeport since 2003. Pownal agreed to pay Freeport High School the state tuition fee, but has also paid additional costs per student to help with the high school debt.
In addition to the $44,000, a bill sponsored by Rep. David Webster, D-Freeport, and Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, was passed to allow a one-time change to Pownal’s state valuation, saving taxpayers up to an additional $80,000. Because of the legislation, Pownal residents could see their school tax levy drop $654 per $100,000 of assessed value to $421.
“What happened in Pownal was an anomaly due to the sale of a few high cost houses,” Webster said. “This change will reduce Pownal’s huge valuation spike and help relieve taxpayers.”
The approved budget will be presented to a district budget meeting at Freeport High School at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 16, where residents who attend will vote on each warrant article. The approved articles must be ratified in a voter referendum on Tuesday, June 25.
Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or email@example.com.
This story was updated on June 10 to include the Legislature’s action to alter Pownal’s state valuation.