RSU 1 voters say yes to $28.35M budget

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BATH — Regional School Unit 1 voters on Tuesday approved a $28.35 million budget, 861-334, for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

The spending plan passed 400-131 in Bath, 73-13 in Arrowsic, 133-51 in Phippsburg, 84-60 in West Bath and 171-79 in Woolwich.

About 60 RSU 1 voters approved the fiscal 2015 budget at the May 27 district budget meeting, held at Bath Middle School.

Total spending increases 2.2 percent, with $18.8 million from taxpayers, according to the district. RSU 1 expects to receive $8.85 million in state subsidy, a more than $19,000 increase.

The local contribution for each community is $9.2 million from Bath, up 3 percent; Arrowsic, about $435,000, down 8.3 percent; Phippsburg, $2.8 million, up 5.4 percent; West Bath, $2.7 million, up 2.1 percent, and Woolwich, $3.7 million, up 4.6 percent.

Local contribution is based on a cost-per-pupil formula, determined after subtracting debt service ($1.8 million) and miscellaneous revenues ($707,000) from the budget, and dividing the sum by total enrollment.

Subsidies and special education reimbursements RSU 1 receives were previously spread among all five communities, but a new formula adopted by district voters last year now directs those funds to the communities generating the revenues. Bath and Woolwich receive subsidies, while Arrowsic and Phippsburg get a special education reimbursement. West Bath receives neither.

Proposed budget hikes include about $67,000 each for a high school alternative education teacher and expansion of the life skills program at the elementary school level; about $17,000 for expansion of the pre-kindergarten program; $30,000 for a guidance position at Woolwich Central School; almost $40,000 for an educational technician at Fisher-Mitchell Elementary School, and about $10,000 for expansion of the choral program at Morse High School.

Suggested reductions, totaling about $161,000, include half a full-time special education position at Phippsburg Elementary School, half a full-time position at Bath Regional Career and Technical Center, and not replacing a retiring classroom teacher at the Dike-Newell Elementary School.

The budget’s proposed hike of nearly $604,000 includes increases of about $453,000 for salaries and benefits, and nearly $293,000 for expenses such as maintenance, professional services, leases, adult education, capital improvements, office expenses and contingency.

Also reflected is a drop of about $234,000 in tuition expenses, thanks to a reduced number of grandfathered students and their siblings for whom RSU 1 has been paying out-of-district tuition, and fewer special education students who will be sent outside the district.

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. The lawsuit, filed in October 2012, claims West Bath 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.

West Bath residents also voted by about a 3-1 margin Jan. 21 to start the process of withdrawing from the RSU, which was created in 2008. A committee has been developing an agreement for the town’s withdrawal, and a second referendum is required for West Bath to officially withdraw.

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.