State aid to Bath-area school district likely to offset some taxes

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BATH — Although they may not make a formal decision until next month, the Regional School 1 Board of Directors on Monday indicated it is likely to offset some local taxes with the district’s state subsidy.

Superintendent Patrick Manuel said RSU 1 had expected in February to receive $9.4 million in state aid – a $74,000 increase – under Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed state budget.

But after the Legislature’s approval of the spending plan early this month, RSU 1 learned it would receive nearly $10 million, an increase of about $547,000 over fiscal 2017.

School districts are required to allocate at least 50 percent of the new education subsidy toward tax relief, unless voters gave the districts prior authorization to spend the funds differently during the current fiscal year.

“A majority of the board, if not all … informally said that they supported returning 50 percent of it,” Manuel said Tuesday. “But they had some discussion about the other 50 percent, different options for that.”

The district’s Finance Committee and administrative team will “brainstorm some suggestions, ideas, what we feel is in the best interest of the district,” the superintendent said.

Options include putting the money into undesignated funds, which would then be carried over into the fund balance to offset the fiscal 2019 budget expenditures, Manuel noted. The funds could potentially go toward a new position, or toward bonding for a new Morse High School, he added.

A decision could be made at a board meeting in late August unless the panel decides to meet earlier.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.