RSU 14 budget correction alters tax impact on towns

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WINDHAM — A miscalculation by the RSU 14 asssistant superintendent means that Raymond taxpayers are projected to pay more of the proposed $46 million school budget than originally thought.

In a May 21 memo sent to Windham Town Manager Tony Plante and Raymond Town Manager Don Willard, Donn Davis acknowledged that he incorrectly calculated the predicted tax assessments for each town under the budget proposal for fiscal year 2019.

Davis now predicts that Raymond will see a $323,000 tax increase under the proposed budget, up from his previous calculation of an increase of less than $24,000. The corrected numbers would translate to a more than 3.5 percent increase from this year, whereas Davis’ initial numbers predicted a less than 0.3 percent increase for Raymond taxpayers.

The miscalculation also means that Windham’s projected tax assessment under the proposed school budget is less than what Davis first predicted. Rather than seeing a roughly 9.6 percent increase of nearly $1.9 million compared to the current year, Windham’s school tax assessment is now projected to be an 8 percent increase of $1.58 million more than the current assessment.

When explaining the miscalculation, Davis cited a moving target in terms of how the state calculates and averages each town’s contribution to education.

Davis stressed this week that the mistake was caught and brought to the town managers’ attention prior to the initial public vote at the May 23 budget meeting.

A June 1 story in the Lakes Region Weekly used Davis’ initial, incorrect local assessment projections.

District voters in both Windham and Raymond will now weigh in on the proposed budget at the polls Tuesday, June 12, for the validation vote.

Raymond Selectboard Chairwoman Teresa Sadak, who has recently initiated a petition for Raymond to withdraw from RSU 14, called Davis’ error a “big miscalculation,” but stopped short of saying that she would oppose the budget’s passage.

“I don’t ever want to take away from the kids,” said Sadak, who added that district officials did not mention the mistake at the May 23 budget meeting.

“They could have corrected it then,” she suggested.

Davis, who is retiring this year, said that “whether it’s right or wrong” the district has “never described” the projected tax assessments for each town at the budget meeting during his time there.

“But I did want the municipal officials to know,” Davis added.

Willard called the a mistaken calculation a”significant issue” that caused a last minute bump in Raymond’s projected fiscal year 2019 tax impact. Raymond Finance Director Cathy Ricker said the town was predicting a 0.11 overall tax decrease before the school miscalculation, but is now expecting the tax rate to increase slightly by 0.71 percent.

Noting that the town government works hard to keep the tax rate stable, Willard added that he assumes “the school is doing the same thing” to try and control costs.

“People make mistakes, things happen, and you have to move on from it,” Willard said.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@keepmecurrent.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

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