Despite cuts, RSU 39 budget requires tax increase

5 years ago

CARIBOU, Maine — RSU 39’s proposed budget for the next school year will result in a half mill increase in property taxes despite administrators making more than a million dollars worth of cuts, according to school officials.

RSU 39 Superintendent Tim Doak and RSU 39 Business Manager Mark Bouchard both said on Thursday that there are three factors impacting this year’s budget: Limestone’s withdrawal from the Regional School Unit; the addition of debt to pay for new school construction; and a loss of revenues from the Maine School of Science and Mathematics, which is housed in a building that will be owned by the town of Limestone following its withdrawal on June 30.

Once Limestone withdraws, the RSU 39 will only consist of Caribou and Stockholm.

While Limestone’s withdrawal will save RSU 39 money in terms of building maintenance costs, the Maine School of Science and Mathematics, which shares a campus with the Limestone Community School, will no longer pay RSU 39 rent money for the building. According to school officials, the magnet school pays roughly $400,000 annually.

RSU 39 is also responsible for about $2.5 million out of the total $53,008,257 cost for construction of the new school. The local share of that debt will be paid over the next 20 years.

Significant cuts include a $581,351.07 reduction in regular instruction costs and $601,184.51 less in facilities maintenance expenses, both primarily due to Limestone’s withdrawal. The budget also includes $381,535.86 less for buses and transportation and $109,018.80 less for school administration.

The bottom line for the 2019-20 budget is $19,725,587.62, representing a 3.75 percent increase over last year’s $18,986,476.

Doak said that this year’s budget in particular will likely be much higher than subsequent budgets, since in addition to having new construction debt, the RSU is still maintaining Teague Park Elementary School and Caribou Middle School. With the new school scheduled to open in August 2020, Teague Park and the middle school buildings will be demolished, so the RSU will no longer have to fund maintenance, heating, electricity, and other expenses related to those buildings. Additionally, the new school’s energy efficient biomass boiler will also save RSU 39 money.

After Limestone withdraws, the student/teacher ratios and other factors used in the funding formula to determine how much the RSU receives from the state will look more favorable to the Department of Education, Doak said.

“Our ratios will be right on with what the state wants,” said Doak, “because we won’t have Limestone’s low class sizes. Really, there are no small class sizes in Caribou whereas some Limestone classes only had about six or seven kids. We’ll be right on with what the state wants.”

“All in all,” Doak concluded, “I think withdrawal is working out well for both Limestone and RSU 39.”

Local residents will be able to vote on individual parts of the upcoming budget during the RSU 39 district budget meeting set to start at 6 p.m. on May 29 at the Caribou Middle School cafeteria.