SULLIVAN — The Regional School Unit 24 (RSU 24) Budget and Finance Committee unanimously approved April 7 presenting its recommended budget for the 2021-22 year to the district’s board of directors at the board’s May 4 meeting.
The budget, totaling $18,245,701, represents an increase of 5 percent from the current budget. The bulk of the increase is due to the debt service from the construction of the new Charles M. Sumner Learning Campus, the grades-6-through-12 school currently being built behind Sumner Memorial High School.
Without the debt service, which rings in at $721,416, the budget’s increase from last year is not even 1 percent.
“It’s a .98 percent increase, which is pretty remarkable,” said Patti Riggs, finance manager for RSU 24.
“I’m pleased and proud that we’re able to bring a budget in at this level,” echoed RSU 24 Superintendent Michael Eastman.
The recommended budget for the district’s adult education program, which is separate from the $18.2 million, is $432,821,21.
Of the $18.2 million, about $13.1 million will be required from taxpayers from the towns in the school district, which include Eastbrook, Franklin, Gouldsboro, Mariaville, Sorrento, Steuben, Sullivan, Waltham and Winter Harbor.
The breakdown is $882,710 from the town of Eastbrook, about $2.3 million from Franklin, nearly $3 million from Gouldsboro, $843,054 from Mariaville, $605,579 from Sorrento, $2 million from Steuben, $2.2 million from Sullivan, $451,314 from Waltham and $879,561 from Winter Harbor.
If approved by the board, a referendum on the budget will take place in June in each of the member towns. A separate referendum article will also ask voters to approve the adult education budget.
Prior to the referendum, there will be a public hearing via Zoom videoconferencing on May 26 where voters can ask questions and see how the budget was developed, Riggs said.
Budget development includes calculating what state aid will be administered to RSU 24, which is determined by funding formulas that are complicated, she explained.
Riggs shared that all the towns in RSU 24 are eligible for a discount on their share of the debt service, but because of the funding formulas, only the towns of Gouldsboro and Winter Harbor met all the criteria to receive discounts.
Additionally, Riggs explained how the town of Sorrento is what the state categorizes as a “minimum receiver” of state funding due to its small population and high property valuation.
At the close of the meeting, Eastman acknowledged the consideration that was put into developing the budget and how students’ needs — as well as taxpayer constraints — were recognized.
“The leadership team that put this budget together had a mindset that we needed to respect the needs of our students but also the ability of our communities to pay,” said Eastman.
“So, they worked really hard to make sure that they presented a budget to this committee that found that balance.”
Documents detailing the proposed budget are on the RSU 24 website.