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RSU 39 area voters approve $1.5 million increase in school budget

CARIBOU, Maine — Voters from the RSU 39 municipalities of Caribou, Limestone, and Stockholm on May 16 approved a 2018-19 school budget of $18,986,477. The amount represents a $1.5 million increase over the previous year’s budget, but will not significantly affect the local share of taxes because of additional revenues.

RSU 39 Superintendent Tim Doak said the school district was blessed with “quite a bit more money this year,” totaling $1,530,388 coming from district tuition, Union 122 information technology services, MSAD 20 administrative services (Doak also works as a superintendent for that district), and over $800,000 in additional state funding under the essential programs and services formula.

With significant revenue increases, the superintendent indicated the budget’s impact on the mill rate of RSU 39 communities will be a 0.04 percent increase.

“The only reason we went slightly up in the mill rate was because we had to put in additional money for the new school,” Doak said, “which was $900,000 for this year, but only $50,000 has to be paid through local taxes. The other $850,000 is paid by the state, which skewed our number and brought the budget up by nine percent.”

Several cuts were made, according to Doak, to bring the budget to its current point, including $125,000 that had been designated for a bus garage addition, $96,000 worth of reduction in school technology programs, and $42,000 less in facilities projects. Additions to the budget include two buses for $180,000, salary and health insurance increases, and $70,000 for a school resource officer.

Doak said members of the community felt very strongly about having an officer on school grounds.

“The police will have to hire an additional officer,” he said, “and we will have access to that officer for 11 months out of the year. The average response time to a school shooting is about five minutes, sometimes up to seven, but having someone right there really allows the police to take immediate action in the case of a crisis.”

Doak said the resource officer would be more than “just a security guard,” but someone who “builds on relationships with kids,” and enriches the overall environment.

While the budget itself was passed by district residents, it still needs to pass a validation referendum vote on June 12. Caribou residents can vote at the Caribou Wellness Center at 55 Bennett Drive between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.; Limestone voters can go to the Limestone Town Office at 93 Main Street between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., and Stockholm voters can cast ballots at their town office at 62 School Street between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m..

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