RSU 39 residents vote nearly $17.4 million budget forward

7 years ago

CARIBOU, Maine —  All expense items for RSU 39’s nearly $17.4 million school budget for next year passed with minimal feedback during a May 31 district meeting at the Caribou Middle School library.

While the budget is down by $697,363, or 3.86 percent, overall from last year, mostly due to staff reductions, closing Hilltop Elementary, and sending Limestone high schoolers to Caribou, Superintendent Tim Doak and Business Manager Mark Bouchard were asked a few questions about line item increases.

Altogether, this year’s budget adds up to $17,391,023, which Doak said will reduce RSU 39 communities’ mill rate by .03.

Caribou Resident Bruce Hagelstein questioned a 394.1 percent, or $26,559, increase in “purchased services,” asking officials to provide more details about those services as well as a justification for the increase.

“Last year we started the JMG program one of the best programs in the state of Maine,” said Doak. “Part of the agreement would allow the first year to be free, but this year we now need to pay for the program. It’s an outstanding program, and one of the best school-run groups in the state.”

JMG, or Jobs for Maine Graduates, is a nonprofit that helps students transition to successful careers via local connections, scholarships, and a close relationship with businesses across the state.

Hagelstein also asked about the telephone bill, which appeared in several areas of the budget.

“I just went through and added up all the telephone costs and it equals $47,435.90,” Hagelstein said. “That seems unbelievable. What are the actuals? That’s an awful large phone bill.”

Doak said explained that the phone bill also included costs for all the copy machines in the school district.. Mark Bouchard added that the actual costs are likely less than $47,000 and that any carryover will go back into the general fund.

Notable cuts to the budget included a $137,725 reduction in benefits and a $39,230 reduction in textbooks, a $239,351 reduction to special education salaries, and a total of $95,623 cut from transportation and buses.

Before adjourning, Hagelstein asked officials how much money would be carried over or go back into the general fund this year, to which Doak said there would be  about $1.8 million.

“So you have about 1.8 million extra,” Hagelstein said. “Why can’t some of that be applied to reducing the budget?”

Doak and Bouchard said the remainder will be used to assist with next year’s budget, with Doak adding that the RSU would otherwise need to go to taxpayers in the middle of the school year to cover any unexpected expenses.

Moving forward, the last stop for RSU’s budget will occur on June 13 when residents of the member communities of Caribou, Stockholm, and Limestone will vote on the budget during their local elections. Stockholm and Limestone elections will take place in their respective town offices while Caribou residents will be able to vote at the Recreation Center.