Nearly $9.8 million school budget for Patten, Island Falls area passes second hurdle

7 years ago

ISLAND FALLS, Maine — A small group of about 44 residents gave their approval Wednesday to a $9.7 million school budget for RSU 50 and its 12 member communities in northern Penobscot and southern Aroostook counties.

As presented, next year’s proposed budget of $9,768,095, represents an increase of $148,650 (1.55 percent) over the current spending plan. William Stockmeyer served as moderator for the meeting held at the Island Falls Municipal Building.

Few questions relating to the budget were posed to the school board during the May 31 meeting, which lasted 45 minutes.

“We are pleased the budget passed this second phase,” Superintendent Todd LeRoy said. “When we initially sat down and started looking at the budget, we were facing a $500,000 increase. We really put our noses to the grindstone for areas we could trim.”

LeRoy said he hopes residents of each member town will also support the budget at the polls June 13 for final approval. The RSU serves the communities of Crystal, Dyer Brook, Hersey, Island Falls, Merrill, Moro Plantation, Mt. Chase, Oakfield, Patten, Sherman, Smyrna, and Stacyville.

Having a conversation prior to the start of the RSU 50 district budget meeting May 31 in Island Falls are Kristi Brannen, left, and Frank Porter.
(Joseph Cyr)

The district is receiving less funding from the state next year and will have to provide more local dollars to receive those state funds, LeRoy explained. RSU 50 will receive a state allocation of $4,840,201 (which is a decrease of $50,463), but will have to come up with $2,606,939 in a local required match.

Because the district is spending more than the state says it should be to provide Essential Programs and Services (EPS), the district also must raise additional local dollars to balance the budget. That amount for next year will be $1,393,444.

The budget has risen steadily in RSU 50, which also holds true for most school districts in the region. Last year’s budget figure of $9,619,445 was an increase of 1.49 percent. The budget for 2015-16 was $9,478,679. For comparison, back in 2012-13 the budget was $9,261,281.

A new article for the budget meeting sought approval from residents to use 50 percent of any additional money that may come from the state once the Legislature finalizes the state budget. School districts regularly have to build and approve a budget based on the state’s expectations for general purpose aid.

William Stockmeyer, right, and Paige Colville wait for the start of the RSU 50 budget meeting on May 31. Stockmeyer was elected as the moderator for the meeting.
(Joseph Cyr)

In some rare cases, the state provides additional money to schools once it completes its budget process. That money is often used by districts to reduce the local tax burden. RSU 50 asked residents to approve using 50 percent of any extra money for the purpose of reducing the local share, with the district authorized to spend the remaining 50 percent in areas it deems necessary.

“I am pleased that the community approved allowing [the district] to use any additional funds that may come in,” LeRoy said. “Usually when you budget you try to have some pockets of wiggle room. We don’t have that in this year’s budget. It is as close to the bone as you can get.”