DURHAM – Regional School Unit 5 will present its 2014-2015 budget proposal to Durham residents on Wednesday night, April 30.
The meeting at Durham Community School begins with a “dine-and-discuss” session, from 5:30-6:30. As RSU 5 did earlier this month in Pownal, school board members and Superintendent Shannon Welsh will sit and dine with local residents and hear their concerns.
Durham voters, in particular, would be hit hard by the proposed $27,275,566 budget that is 5 percent more than last year. They would pay 7.15 more in taxes for education, while Pownal would absorb a 6 percent increase and Freeport’s cost would rise by 3.35 percent.
Welsh has said that the normal budget increase from year to year is between 2 and 3 percent.
The board is scheduled to adopt a new budget on May 14. Two public votes are necessary to get the budget plan passed. The annual budget meeting, in which residents will vote on the budget article by article, is set for May 28. The budget referendum in the three towns is scheduled for June 10.
As RSU 5 is presenting its budget, Freeport is negotiating with the school unit for withdrawal. Freeport residents voted in December to explore withdrawal, and the town has ponied up $50,000 to meet the Withdrawal Committee’s expenses.
Of the $1,337,243 proposed increase, $400,000 of that already is earmarked. It will pay for increases for teachers, decided that last month, when the board concluded negotiations with the local teachers’ union. Both Welsh and board Chairman Nelson Larkins have said that the pay hikes, which round out to 3.75 percent, are necessary to keep RSU 5 competitive with surrounding communities.
RSU 5 also is proposing the addition of a literary strategist, a position that was dropped last year, and a math position.
Increases are called for in educational technician hours, to the tune of $194,342.
There would be a $456,372 increase in the cost of special education, to cover a new teaching position and an additional resource room at Freeport High School, if the budget passes as is.
The spending plan calls for an additional $393,658 in capital expenses. That includes adding $193,000 in reserve funds to repave the access road to Freeport Middle School, and audio/visual upgrades. Also, $43,658 is earmarked for two new leased buses, $33,000 for a new field maintenance tractor; and $30,000 for a new Pownal Elementary School roof.
Last June, RSU 5 residents passed the budget by a vote of 2,414-1,716. It went down 701-399 in Durham and 395-182 in Pownal, but Freeport carried the day, passing it 1,833-620.
At the same time, voters defeated a $16.9 million bond request to renovate and enlarge Freeport High School. A plan to spend $580,000 less than that passed in November.
The renovation plan is in limbo pending the withdrawal vote, and Freeport residents will need to revisit the issue if and when Freeport becomes a stand-alone school unit.