RSU 5 budget includes district-wide tax increase

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FREEPORT — There will likely be no cuts in classroom offerings or school programs in the fiscal year 2018 Regional School Unit 5 budget.

But property owners in Freeport, Pownal and Durham can still expect to see an increase in taxes to support the proposed budget.

The proposed operating budget is $32.2 million, up from this year’s $31 million, coming in just less than 4 percent higher.

The School Board adopted its budget March 22. Residents will vote June 13 on the spending plan.

The expected district-wide increase in taxes will be 5.25 percent. Under that scenario, Feeport’s tax would increase 3.50 percent, or 55 cents per $1,000 of valuation. In Durham, the increase would be 3.05 percent, a 57-cent increase per $1,000. In Pownal, the impact would be the highest, at 5.82 percent, or 96 cents.

The board held a special meeting March 15 to rework the budget after a $500,000 clerical accounting error was discovered. Taxes at that point would have climbed 6.43 percent.

Superintendent Becky Foley, the board, and Finance Director Michelle Lickteig worked to bring the tax impact closer to 5 percent. 

Preserving extra and remedial math programs remained key, Foley said last week. Finding money to pay for larger band instruments, such as tubas, also was important.

“To lessen the tax impact from 6.43 percent to 5.25 percent, administration will pay for some math and music materials from this year’s budget, rather than the proposed (fiscal 2018) budget,” she said. “The plan for paying off the nutrition debt will be spread over two years, rather than the initial plan to reduce it in a single year. This will allow the RSU to utilize $100,000 from the undesignated fund balance to lower the tax impact.”

Three upcoming meetings, one in each town, are scheduled to explain the proposed budget.

The meetings are set for 6-6:30 p.m., prior to the respective town’s regular School Board meeting:  April 12 at Pownal Elementary School, April 26 at Durham Community School, and May 10 at Freeport High School.  

Lisa D. Connell can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or lconnell@theforecaster.net. Follow Lisa on Twitter: @connell_ld.

The RSU 5 administrative building is located at 20 West St., Freeport.

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