Voters in the five towns of RSU 40 will answer five questions as the school district’s 2020-2021 budget goes to a referendum vote Tuesday, July 14.
Four of the five towns will see lower contributions under the budget, including Waldoboro. Washington’s contribution will stay the same.
The budget totals $31,337,746, an increase of $2,134,798 or 7.31% from 2019-2020, according to RSU 40 Business Manager Karen Pike.
Although expenses are up, state subsidy is too, according to Pike. A $1.1 million increase in state subsidy will help keep local contributions down or level.
The district will also receive about $400,000 from federal coronavirus relief legislation, according to information from the Maine Department of Education.
Waldoboro, the only Lincoln County town in RSU 40, will pay $6,114,050 toward the budget, down $10,549 or 0.17%.
Enrollment and valuation are factors in the district’s cost-sharing formula. Waldoboro’s enrollment is up from 644.5 to 652 pupils, for 35.87% of the district’s total enrollment of 1,817.5. The town’s valuation is $489.75 million, up $6.45 million, or 1.32%.
RSU 40 Superintendent Steve Nolan recently met with state Rep. Jeff Evangelos, I-Friendship, Union Town Manager Jay Feyler, and Waldoboro Town Manager Julie Keizer to discuss the rationale for the budget and information the district has received from the Maine Department of Education.
According to Nolan, the district has received no information from the department indicating that state subsidy will be reduced.
In a June 22 letter to community members, Nolan said initial plans for an ambitious budget to bring the district to the funding levels of neighboring districts were derailed by COVID-19.
“Any momentum we had coming into the budget process came to a crawl with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the past few months, our board of directors has worked diligently with our administrative team to scale back my original proposal and approve a budget that results in (no) tax increase for our property owners,” Nolan said.
But Robert Butler, chair of the Waldoboro Board of Selectmen, has voiced frustration with the budget.
Butler believes the RSU 40 Board of Directors needs to reexamine the budget and follow the lead of area municipalities, like Waldoboro, that have made deep cuts to their initial budget proposals.
“I don’t think we ought to be waiting for guidance. I think they ought to do what we did, be proactive, and they have got to get it done,” Butler said during a selectmen’s meeting June 23.
The RSU 40 board approved the budget April 16, after an extended process brought about by the coronavirus; typically the board approves the budget in March.
Additionally, in a typical year the education budget goes to voters in a two-step process – an open meeting followed by a validation referendum.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, in lieu of an open meeting, the school board will host a remote public hearing at 7 p.m., Thursday, July 2, to allow members of the public to ask questions prior to the vote. The public may participate by videoconference or phone.
An executive order by Gov. Janet Mills allows school districts to replace their normal two-step process with a remote public hearing and a referendum vote.
Another change in this year’s vote is that, instead of one yes-or-no validation question, this year’s ballot has five questions for voters to decide.
Voters will weigh in on overall expenditures and the cost of the nutrition program, adult education program, career and technical education, and career and technical adult education.
The career and technical education budget, as approved by the Region 8 Cooperative Board, totals $5,644,046, an increase of $242,978 or 4.31%.
Expenses for the other programs are as follows: $125,000 for nutrition; $76,941 for adult education, of which $55,000 is the local share; and $228,723 for career and technical adult education, of which $26,272.76 is the local share.
In Waldoboro, the polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the town office.
RSU 40 includes the Lincoln County town of Waldoboro and the Knox County towns of Friendship, Union, Warren, and Washington.