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Residents endorse RSU 29 spending plan

HOULTON, Maine — With few comments or questions raised, residents in RSU 29 approved a $14 million spending plan for the district Tuesday evening at Houlton Community Arts Center.

Houlton residents Fran Grant, front, and Nancy Ketch raise their hands in support of a warrant article during Tuesday night’s RSU 29 budget meeting. Residents approved a $14 million spending plan for 2019-20. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

Attorney William Stockmeyer of the law firm Drummond Woodsum of Portland was selected as moderator for Tuesday’s meeting. Approximately 35 people attended the budget meeting, which lasted just 30 minutes.

At $14,629,235, the budget for the 2019-20 school year features an increase of $643,160 (4.6 percent) over the previous spending plan. The majority of the increase is due to a rise in wages and health benefits.

RSU 29 will receive $10,638,399 from the state, which is an increase of $420,304 (4 percent) from last year. In order to receive those funds, however, the district must provide $3,220,782 for its local share of the budget. That figure is down $133,482 from last year.

So essentially, while other districts are seeing their state funds slashed or local shares increased, RSU 29 is seeing the exact opposite trend.

“This is one of those rare occasions where revenue for the district has gone up, but the cost to the municipalities has gone down,” board chairman Fred Grant said. “It’s a win for everyone. For the students, it is a win in the form of increased revenues for programs.”

The district expects to have a carryover from the current fiscal plan of about $300,000, which is something RSU 29 did not have a year ago. The district also plans to take another $300,000 out of its undesignated (surplus) fund to help reduce the tax burden.

“We are so fortunate in this district,” RSU 29 Superintendent Ellen Halliday said. “We have committed teachers, support staff, food service, custodians, bus drivers and administrators who are all committed to RSU 29 and our students.”

The budget will now go to a public referendum vote Tuesday, June 11, at the polling locations for Houlton, Hammond, Littlteon and Monticello.

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