RSU 1 spending down, local taxes up, in proposed budget

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BATH — The departure of West Bath from Regional School Unit 1 this year will create a significant reduction in the district’s fiscal 2016 budget.

But without that town’s contribution, taxes for each community are expected to increase.

The RSU 1 budget could decline 3.6 percent, to $27.3 million, according to Business Manager Debra Clark – due primarily to the loss of West Bath, which voted overwhelmingly last December to leave the school district.

Of that total spending plan, $16.8 million could come from the four remaining RSU communities, a nearly $2 million decrease. But with the local allocation shared by four communities instead of five, each community could pay more next year.

Bath could pay $9.6 million, an increase of 4.7 percent; Arrowsic, about $452,000, up nearly 4 percent; Phippsburg, nearly $3 million, up 6.6 percent; and Woolwich, $3.8 million, up 3.7 percent.

West Bath paid $2.7 million in the current budget, nearly 15 percent of the total.

RSU 1 expects to receive about $171,000 in additional state subsidy next year, for a total of about $9 million, while the district is proposing to budget nearly $747,000 in added tuition revenue, both of which are geared toward offsetting expenses, Clark said.

This first version of the budget, presented to the School Board on Monday, proposes retaining all staff and programs at their local levels, she said. While pre-kindergarten five days a week and world languages at the middle school level are not currently in the budget, administrators hope to see them added, RSU 1 Superintendent Patrick Manuel said March 20.

The Finance Committee directed administrators to cut $500,000 from the initial budget, Manuel added. Non-labor expenses, such as supplies and equipment, were cut, he said.

Public budget forums will be held at Bath Middle School on April 6 and April 27, and the School Board’s second reading of the spending plan will be May 4. All meetings start at 6 p.m.

The budget will undergo two votes by the four communities: at a district budget meeting May 26, and a budget validation referendum June 9.

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.