May 18, 2013

RSU 4 budget proposal strikes 9 teaching jobs, means higher costs to towns

By Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WALES — Nine teaching jobs will be cut if the proposed $17.7 million budget is adopted in Regional School Unit 4 — Litchfield, Sabattus and Wales — and each town will be billed more to support that budget.

RSU 4 MEETINGS

Budget informational meetings are set for these sites:

• 6:30 p.m. May 29 at Carrie Ricker School, Litchfield

• 6:30 p.m. May 30 at Oak Hill Middle School, Sabattus

• 6:30 p.m. June 4 at Oak Hill High School, Wales

The budget will be presented at three informational meetings — one in each town — and then be subject to a June 5 districtwide vote and a June 11 referendum at the polls in each town.

The school board voted April 24 to adopt the budget, which is 0.85 percent, or $150,000, greater than the current budget.

Scott Eldridge, the district's business manager, said that part of the increase is an anticipated $220,000 contribution to the teachers' pension fund, which historically has been paid by the state.

If the budget passes, Litchfield residents who own property assessed at $150,000 will pay almost $149 more annually to support the budget. In Sabattus, that same homeowner would pay $245 more, and in Wales, the bill would be almost $217 more.

Among the staff members whose jobs would be eliminated are two Spanish teachers, one each at Oak HiIl middle and high schools; a Project Reach teacher at the middle school; English, language arts, mathematics and social studies teachers at the high school; a fifth-grade teacher at Carrie Ricker School; and a teacher at Libby-Tozier Elementary School.

The high school would continue to offer French and Latin.

Eldridge said the board chose to reinstate $18,000 for seventh-grade sports as well as a teaching post in the intervention program at the high school. The administration had proposed cutting those items.

Reductions in the teaching staff also would result in increased class sizes at Carrie Ricker, Libby-Tozier and Oak Hill High schools, according to Superintendent James Hodgkin.

"Counting the cuts that we have proposed this year, RSU 4 has had to cut over 30 teaching positions, support staff and administration over the past four years," Hodgkin said in a message to residents. "While it may be hard to think about future budgets, there is very good reason for the RSU to feel optimistic about funding in the future. Things have a tendency to go in trends, and the factors that affect school funding appear to be in our favor in future years. Somehow, we need to find a way to get through this budget cycle without causing too much damage to our schools."

The schools have a total enrollment of 1,431. Eleven other students are placed outside the district.

Eldridge said the district previously used carryover balances to keep tax rates down. Last year almost $400,000 was carried over, but this year "there's no money left in the carryover," he said.

The largest expenses in the proposed budget are almost $6.4 million for regular instruction, $3 million for special education and $2.1 million for facilities maintenance.

Betty Adams — 621-5631
badams@centralmaine.com

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