Saturday, March 8, 2014
BY SUSAN MCMILLAN
RICHMOND — Two out of five towns have now voiced their displeasure with being part of Regional School Unit 2.
On Tuesday, Richmond voters overwhelmingly approved a nonbinding referendum to authorize the selectboard to explore the town’s withdrawal from the regional school unit.
They join Monmouth voters who last week voted 487-168 in support of withdrawing.
Tuesday’s referendum in Richmond neeeded support of two-thirds of voters and easily cleared that hurdle, passing 180-34, or 84 percent in favor.
Selectmen had heard complaints from some residents about communication and busing and needed to “take the temperature” of the town to see if dissatisfaction with the regional school unit was widespread, Board of Selectman Chairman Tracy Tuttle said.
The referendum authorized the board to appropriate up to $30,000 for legal and other expenses related to their investigation, and Town Manager Marian Anderson is exploring what steps selectmen need to take next.
Tuttle said she is ambivalent about the regional school unit but said she’s happy the results of the referendum were so clear.
Richmond was one of several towns that voted Tuesday on a variety of school budgets and municipal races.
SCHOOL BUDGET VALIDATIONS
Voters narrowly approved a school $9.5 million school budget that will raise property taxes despite being 2.2 percent smaller than last year’s.
The budget was approved by 266 voters and rejected by 231.
The schools will receive about $460,000 less in state and federal funding for the 2011-12 year.
The board found savings in the elimination of five staff positions, deferral of a raise for teachers and support staff and reduced energy costs. Overall the budget is $218,000 less than this year’s.
Regional School Unit 38
All four towns in the Maranacook school district approved RSU 38’s $15 million budget for next year.
The budget is $400,000 larger than this year. Local residents will contribute $9.2 million, up from $8.4 million last year, due to reduced funding from the state.
Administrators proposed reductions that are expected to save $259,000.
Manchester property owners will pay $78 more annually on a house assessed for tax purposes at $150,000. Owners of similarly valued homes in Mount Vernon and Readfield will pay $102 more annually, while Wayne property owners will see their taxes decrease.
The validation results, by town, were:
• Manchester: 143 for, 40 against
• Mount Vernon: 146 yes, 86 against
• Readfield: 158 for, 118 against
• Wayne: 136 for, 25 against
Regional School Unit 12
Voters approved the Sheepscot Valley Regional School Unit’s budget but turned down a referendum that would have allowed the district to buy its central office.
The $25.1 million budget is increased 1 percent from this year and was approved 388 to 318.
Wiscasset was the only town to reject the budget, voting 198 against and 135 for.
Palermo and Somerville will pay an increased share of the school budget, while contributions from the other towns will remain flat.
Voters rejected the bond issue 401 to 338. Majorities in Somerville, Westport Island and Wiscasset voted against the bond issue, while majorities in Alna, Chelsea, Palermo, Whitefield and Windsor favored it.
The referendum would have allowed the school unit to pay $160,000 for the building it currently leases. The current lease ends in December, and the owners want to sell the building, so school leaders must explore other options, Superintendent Greg Potter said.
Philip Johnston was elected to the first selectman’s seat, nearly doubling the vote total of any of the other three candidates.
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