School board backs adding $115K to RSU 5 budget

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FREEPORT — The Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors supports adding $115,000 to the proposed 2012 school budget for professional development and literacy support.

In a straw vote taken during a meeting on May 11, six of nine members said they favor adding the money to the budget.

Board members Brenda Kielty of Freeport and John Ricker of Durham were not present.

Some members wanted to add more professional development time and support positions to the budget; board member Beth Parker of Freeport said she wanted three full professional development days added to the budget.

“In order to reach our strategic plan and continue growing we need to increase our professional development time,” Parker said. “We will sell ourselves short if we don’t add this time.”

But member John Green of Pownal said he is comfortable with the budget presented by the superintendent and administrators.

An additional professional day costs $50,000 and an additional teaching or support position would cost $65,000. The $115,000 would increase the tax impact to residents in all three towns by a nominal amount.

Durham residents would see a $42,000, or 1.4 percent, increase; Freeport residents would face an increase of $165,000, or 1.3 percent, and Pownal residents would see an increase of $4,000, or 0.26 percent.

Freeport board member Peter Murray said the residents of the three communities need to be aware of future costs. If voters approve a $2.9 million bond for an athletic facility, there will be 15 years of payments, he said. It will also cost money to improve the safety, accessibility and appearance of the high school  and to add teachers as the student population grows.

“I encourage people to think about the fact that there will be more (costs) coming,” Murray said. “Academically, we have some goals to meet.” 

The proposed $24.4 million budget has been adjusted a few times since it was presented in March. The alterations reflect increases in health insurance rates, the Region 10 High School budget and the anticipated fields bond interest payment.

Budget reductions include reduced tuition payments to Brunswick as more Durham students attend Freeport High School and, because the town of Freeport refinanced its bonds, reduced interest rates and payments.

Chairman Nelson Larkins said the board is doing its best to keep the budget and the tax rate nearly unchanged from this year.

“I’d like us to go to the community and say we kept it flat as we moved forward,” he said.

The board expects to adopt a budget on Wednesday, May 25. There is a public hearing on the bond for the athletic facilities scheduled before the budget meeting at 6:30 p.m.

After the board approves a proposed budget, residents from Pownal, Freeport and Durham can participate in the annual budget meeting on Wednesday, June 8, at 6:30 p.m. in the Freeport High School gymnasium.

The school budget referendum and athletic field bond vote are scheduled for Tuesday, June 14, in each town.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @amy_k_anderson.

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