RSU 5 budget includes modest tax hike

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FREEPORT — The proposed fiscal year 2017 budget for Regional School Unit 5 of $31 million would mean an increase of 5.15 percent from the current year.

The RSU 5 Board of Directors scheduled a March 9 public hearing on the proposed budget, which increased $1.51 million from the current year. Superintendent of Schools Ed McDonough presented the budget to the board in January.

The proposed budget would increase the tax rate for all three RSU 5 towns, Freeport, Durham, and Pownal, by 1.82 percent. This was a net increase of almost $425,000, but McDonough said it’s still unclear how much money that would add to the tax rate for each town.

According to McDonough, the biggest driver of the proposed budget is the renovations being done at Freeport High School, which adds just under $1 million to the budget. A $14.6 million bond to renovate the high school was approved by voters in November 2013.

McDonough said the RSU 5 board had set goals regarding academic achievement and student and staff support, and that the proposed budget reflects those goals.

“This year’s budget maintains all existing programs and goes on to increase student support services,” he said.

The budget proposes increasing support in the areas of nursing, guidance, social work and the library. Also, it is proposed to bring back a kindergarten jump start program for kindergartners who need accelerated learning programs, and to increase funding for “gifted and talented” students.

Also in the proposed budget is an additional half day of professional learning for teachers. The budget also proposes increasing funds for bus maintenance and maintenance in general.

The RSU 5 Board of Directors is expected to adopt the fiscal year 2017 budget on March 23. On April 13 and 27, and May 11, the board will discuss the budget with residents in Pownal, Durham and Freeport, respectively.

The annual budget meeting will be held May 25, and the budget will be voted on at referendum on June 14.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.