RSU blue-sky budget would raise taxes 5.6%

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BATH — The Regional School Unit 1 Board of Directors reviewed a preliminary fiscal 2010 budget Monday evening that reflects a 2.8 percent spending increase and a 5.6 percent tax increase.
Those numbers are subject to change, though.
RSU 1 Superintendent William Shuttleworth said Tuesday that the budget he presented to the board “has all the things that the administrators and staff put in there in terms of what they wanted to have. No effort at this point was meant to censor that first attempt.”
Shuttleworth said the initial budget draft was built with many unknowns, such as the impact of the federal stimulus package, and how much subsidy the district will receive from the state. The superintendent said he is assuming state aid of $7.9 million, about $1 million under what the district expected for 2009 before a state curtailment.
The draft proposes a fiscal 2010 budget of $26 million, nearly $700,000 more than this year. Of that amount, $17.2 million would make up the local contribution, or about $900,000 more than in fiscal 2009. This contribution is allocated among RSU 1’s five communities: Bath, Arrowsic, Phippsburg, West Bath and Woolwich.
Shuttleworth said contracts are another unknown, since has not settled contracts for teachers and support staff.
The budget includes proposals for several new programs geared toward student enrichment. More time has been added for the Gifted and Talented program, and pre-kindergarten education would be added for 50 children, incremented to comprise additional pupils in the coming years to build capacity. Three Advanced Placement classes would be added at Morse High School, in the subjects of calculus, physics and biology.
Another proposal calls for major changes at the vocational center: addition of an electrical program, boat building and an entertainment industries program to teach youths every aspect of performing arts, video and theater management. The culinary arts program would grow, and a diversified occupations program would be introduced for students with significant learning challenges.
Another proposed initiative, the Senior Project, is based on a national model and includes focus during a student’s senior high school year on a particular topic, such as the benefits of a minor league baseball team on a community. The project culminates in a presentation in front of a panel of judges at the end of the school year.
“It is the ultimate cure for senioritus,” Shuttleworth said. On the other hand, this initiative would maintain the senior year “as perhaps the most challenging year in school, as it probably should be. It should not be a year of retirement. You want kids to be at their peak, knowing that there’s tremendous learning yet to be had.”
After the School Board approves a budget, the RSU 1 communities will vote on the spending plan in a June 9 referendum.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or