A strong turnout of district residents approved a $5.26 million budget at the annual meeting of the Great Salt Bay Consolidated School District May 20.
The meeting at the Great Salt Bay Community School cafeteria started 15 minutes late while clerks from Bremen, Damariscotta and Newcastle scrambled to check in a line of voters stretching out the entrance of the cafeteria and down the hallway outside.
Approximately 120 voters, several times more than the usual two or three dozen parents, teachers and school committee members, passed the budget almost unanimously with few questions and no vocal dissent.
The 2013-2014 budget of $5,261,233 is an increase of $237,565 or 4.73 percent.
The impact of the increase will vary from town to town.
Damariscotta will pay $2,036,475, an increase of $159,398 or 7.82 percent. Newcastle will pay $1,654,724, an increase of $66,463 or 4.02 percent. Bremen will pay $589,108, an increase of $13,511 or 2.29 percent.
The towns pay a percentage of the local share of the budget based on the number of students from each town who attend the school. The percentage of Damariscotta students is up for the second consecutive year, while Bremen and Newcastle’s shares are down.
Damariscotta will pay 48.35 percent of the local share in 2013-2014. Newcastle will pay 38.31 percent and Bremen 13.34 percent.
The $5.26 million budget is the result of a compromise following several weeks of school committee meetings and at least five drafts of the budget.
The Central Lincoln County School System and the Great Salt Bay School Committee began with an 11.86 percent increase. The committee, aware of the property tax impacts on the three towns, cut deep into positions and programs for the most austere draft, a relatively minimal 0.45 percent increase.
The 4.73 percent increase, developed after a strong negative response to the cuts from parents and teachers, still eliminates some jobs, reduces the hours of others and eliminates or otherwise impacts some programs.
The budget includes $70,542 for retirement contributions, the result of Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal to shift retirement expenses to school districts.
The towns will also decide whether to continue the referendum process for the next three years. Many school and town officials say the referendums are redundant, draw few voters and waste taxpayer money.
Bristol, Nobleboro and South Bristol have already voted to discontinue the process. The state requires towns that vote to discontinue the process to vote again in three years on whether to resume the practice.
Bremen residents will vote at the Bremen town office, where the polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Damariscotta residents at the Damariscotta town office, where the polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Newcastle residents at the Newcastle fire station, where the polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.