Proposed RSU 24 school budget is up 2.8 percent



SULLIVAN — The proposed Regional School Unit 24 (RSU 24) budget for the 2018-2019 school year is up 2.84 percent over the spending plan for the current school year.

The 2018-2019 budget has a bottom line of $16,586,096. That is an increase of $458,176 over this year. Local taxpayers will feel less of a hit than that, however. The amount taxpayers in the school system’s nine towns will be expected to pay is up $262,823 — 2.11 percent.

Residents will be asked to vote on the proposed budget at a public budget meeting Wednesday, May 30, at 6:30 p.m. at Sumner Memorial High School. The warrant will feature a total of 20 articles, most relating to the 2018-2019 budget with two others relating to long-term capital projects and accounts.

Whatever budget is approved at that May 30 meeting will then go out for a budget validation referendum vote on Tuesday, June 12, when voters will also be heading to the polls for Primary Day political contests.

In a letter posted on the RSU’s website, school officials said they “worked very hard to develop a budget that kept increases in local property taxes to a minimum.” Several factors forced the budget higher, however.

Wages are up between 2 and 2.5 percent for all of the RSU’s collective bargaining units, officials said. Health insurance premiums, meanwhile, are projected to increase by 8.65 percent.

“The only real new initiative is the inclusion of $62,000 that would fund our share of a school resource officer position if a proposal by the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department is funded by the County Commissioners,” the RSU officials wrote.

Transportation and facilities maintenance lines in the 2018-2019 budget are down, by about $44,000 (3.5 percent) and $55,000 (2.85 percent), respectively. Those lines were reduced “in order to hold the line on taxes,” school officials said, but they cautioned that the approach of deferring needed maintenance and capital improvements “can only go on so long before it comes back to bite us.”

Financial news out of Augusta was a good news, bad news scenario for RSU 24. Officials said that with millions more dollars statewide put toward education, it meant an additional $207,241 to the nine RSU 24 towns. But the amount expected from local taxpayers also increased as a result, by $260,941.

“That single change in the formula accounts for 99.3 percent of the increase in the total local share of the budget,” RSU officials noted.

The RSU’s nine communities will be affected differently, in financial terms, because of factors including student population and property valuation. Franklin’s school bill is set to see the highest dollar increase ($124,883, or 5.9 percent), while Winter Harbor stands to see the highest percentage increase in its total local assessment (up 7.9 percent, or $78,898).

Three RSU 24 towns stand to see decreases in their total local assessments for 2018-2019: Gouldsboro (down $20,897 or 0.74 percent), Sorrento ($21,226 or 4.69 percent) and Steuben ($51,515, or almost 2.6 percent).

Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller

Reporter at The Ellsworth American,
Steve Fuller worked at The Ellsworth American from 2012 to early 2018. He covered the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. A native of Waldo County, he served as editor of Belfast's Republican Journal prior to joining the American. He lives in Orland.