RSU 5 budget grows less than 1%

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FREEPORT — The Regional School Unit 5 Board of Trustees was expected to adopt a $23.6 million fiscal year 2011 school budget on Wednesday, May 12.

The board discussed the proposed budget and made no changes in a special budget workshop on May 5.

The total budget is $224,000 more than this year, an increase of less than 1 percent.

Superintendent Shannon Welsh said a few budget adjustments will affect the bottom line. These include an additional $16,000 in revenue from the state, a $10,000 decrease in dental insurance rates and a $3,000 budget reduction in the Maine Vocational Region 10 budget.

Also, $17,000 in stipends have been added that were initially overlooked, along with $52,000 for an 8/10ths-time gifted and talented teaching position.

Each community is expected to experience a decrease in taxes on the school side. Durham will see a reduction of $69,000, Pownal can expect to pay $19,000 less than this year and Freeport’s school taxes are expected to be reduced by $36,000.

On April 28 the board decided that starting next school year, Pownal students in seventh and eigth grades will have to attend schools in Freeport or Durham, and students in grade 6 have the choice to attend schools in Pownal, Durham or Freeport. 

By 2011-2012, the entire Pownal middle school program will be phased out, and the Regional School Unit 5 special education program may be housed in the vacant Pownal classrooms.

Board Chairman Nelson Larkins said when Pownal parents decide which schools their children will attend next year, numbers could change based on staffing needs.

In addition, board member Johnathan Dawson of Durham proposed the board increase the amount of money allocated per student for library books from $9.60 to the state recommended $24 per student, but his suggestion wasn’t supported. The budget would have to be increased by $26,000 to increase the library allocation.

Freeport board member Brenda Kielty said she was concerned it is not the right time to add money to the budget, when loss of stimulus funding and contract negotiations would be an issue next year.

“We haven’t really looked at all the priorities,” she said. “I don’t think we’ve considered all the other elements that are going to will hit us next year fairly enough.”

Eric Dube of Pownal said he, too, would prefer to wait to add $26,000 to the budget.

“I am definitely not in favor of cutting teachers next year when we have issues with making the budget work,” he said. “I’m not in favor of taking away from the classroom.”

While the library funding discussion may continue May 12, members of the public spoke in favor of adding a gifted and talented position.

Stephanie Paine of Freeport said the addition is not enough, but a step in the right direction. Libby Moore of Freeport said she is thrilled the board would consider the position.

“I think by increasing funding for this we are leveraging what we already have,” Moore said.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or [email protected]