Revised RSU 1 budget proposal retains more jobs

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BATH — After proposing a fiscal 2012 budget last week with more than a dozen jobs at jeopardy, Regional School Unit 1 Superintendent William Shuttleworth on Monday offered an option to save a few of those positions.

A potential $1.1 million loss of state and federal revenue 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, Shuttleworth said last week. Instead of proposing such a sharp increase, he presented the School Board with tax-increase scenarios of 2.99 percent, 2 percent and 0 percent.

But Shuttleworth on Monday returned to the School Board with two more scenarios, reflecting tax increases of 2.4 percent and 4 percent, a response to concerns aired at last week’s budget meeting.

The 2.99 percent hike would increase next year’s local contribution from $16.5 million to $17 million. The 2.4 percent change would produce an increase to $16.9 million, while a 4 percent hike would raise that amount to $17.2 million.

Shuttleworth said the 4 percent increase would retain a middle school art teacher, Morse High School science and math teachers and an elementary music position. He said the middle school art position could also be funded with a 3 percent increase by reallocating federal funds and reducing some of the money RSU 1 had allocated for snow plowing, thanks to plowing assistance from the city.

RSU 1 Business Manager Ruth Moore said Wednesday that the middle school art teacher is no longer among possible positions to be cut.

To achieve a 2.4 percent increase, RSU 1 would have to cut an additional education technician, reduce sports at Woolwich Central School and Morse High School, and reduce money spent on maintenance of the schools.

Shuttleworth noted that since RSU 1’s incorporation on July 1, 2008, the unit has lost $2.2 million in state subsidies and $3.2 million in federal money, a total of $5.4 million.

“It is an incredible challenge to continue the quality of programming that we have attempted to do with these limited resources,” he said.

The board had asked the Sagadahoc Education Association to consider reopening contracts to consider furlough days or a pay freeze. The two sides approved a teachers’ contract last August after a long and sometimes contentious process.

The contract provides for an average pay raise of about 4 percent for the retroactive first year, for those RSU 1 communities whose contracts had expired the previous year. The next two years call for average raises of 2.71 percent and 2.76 percent, respectively.

David Cowie, a sixth-grade teacher and co-president of the SEA, said during Monday’s meeting that RSU 1 teachers waited 18 months for the contract, and that the union’s negotiators had already made financial concessions in light of the funding shortfall.

“We can’t afford to give any more,” he said.

Cowie said union members were surveyed about the School Board’s request, “and it was an overwhelming decline to that request.”

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.