RSU 5 budget goes to voters without changes

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FREEPORT — All articles in the $33 million budget for fiscal year 2019 were approved by residents of the three Regional School Unit 5 towns on Wednesday, May 23.

In less than 30 minutes, 28 Freeport residents, six from Pownal and 16 from Durham, showed support for 20 budget articles during the district’s annual budget meeting at Durham Community School.

It was the first step in the district’s annual two-step voter approval process.

The second step – the annual budget validation referendum – takes place June 12 at Freeport High School from 7 a.m.-8 p.m., Mallet Hall in Pownal from 8 a.m.-8 p.m., Durham Community School, also 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Only one question was raised during the annual budget meeting. Freeport Town Council Vice Chairman John Egan asked if state funding had been factored into the budget, which it has. 

Unlike many school districts in the area, RSU 5 is projected to receive an increase in state aid, estimated at $124,600 in FY 2019. 

Egan went on to thank the board and Superintendent Becky Foley for their efforts a crafting a “well thought-out and broadly accepted” budget.

“Having multiple chances for stakeholders to give input, combined with a community that strongly supports education, allowed us to pass this budget with ease and in a record 26 minutes,” Foley said after the meeting. “I am grateful to be a part of such a community.”

The budget, which represents a $747,340, or 2.3 percent, increase from current spending, will be subject to voter validation on June 12.

The expected district-wide increase in taxes will be 4 percent. Under the spending plan, the impact would be the greatest in Pownal: 3.8 percent, or 66 cents. Freeport’s tax would increase 3 percent, or 45 cents per $1,000 of valuation. In Durham, the increase would be 0.9 percent, a 18-cent increase. 

The individual town tax rate increases are only estimates and will likely not be known until late September, according to Finance Director Michelle Lickteig.

The estimated tax impact is based on the current tax rate of $14.95 in Freeport, $18.85 in Durham and $17.25 in Pownal. 

Drivers behind the budget include a 9.5 percent, or about $298,500, increase for student and staff support; about $66,300 more budgeted than current spending for facilities maintenance; a 5.8 percent, or $732,800, increase in funding for regular instruction; and 2.45 percent, or $18,600 more for co-curricular instruction and athletics. 

About $86,400 more will be spent on system administration, $226,800 for special education and $9,000 for adult education. 

However, these increases are partially offset by less money spent on school administration, career and technical education. Transportation has been reduced in part because sporting events and practices can now be held at the recently opened Joan Benoit Samuelson Track and Field at Freeport High School.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

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