CARIBOU, Maine — Voters in RSU 39, a school unit that covers Caribou, Limestone and Stockholm, approved a $19.7 million budget during a May 29 meeting at the Caribou Middle School.
The budget still will not be official until voters approve it once again during a June 11 election, which will be held 8 a.m.-8 p.m. at Caribou Wellness Center on 55 Bennett Drive, and noon-6 p.m. at Stockholm Town Office on 62 School St.
An election will not be held in Limestone, as that town is withdrawing from RSU 39 and will not be part of the school unit during the 2019-20 year.
The referendum will not only ask voters if they want to approve the budget, but also if they wish to continue the referendum process for the next three years. If voters choose not to continue the referendum, then the budget will be officially approved during the regional meeting and no longer require the additional vote.
RSU 39 Superintendent Tim Doak gave a presentation during the May 29 meeting and discussed important factors that went into determining the 2019-20 budget.
This year includes Limestone’s withdrawal, which will result in fewer expenses but also a loss of revenue from Maine School of Science and Mathematics, which shares a campus with Limestone Community School.
Contractors are also busy working on the Caribou Community School, a brand new Pre-K through eighth grade facility planned to replace three existing schools: Hilltop Elementary School, Teague Park Elementary School and Caribou Middle School.
While Hilltop Elementary has been sold to a group of investors who intend to transition the building into a Senior Living Center, Teague Park Elementary and Caribou Middle School will remain operational during the construction.
These two buildings will be demolished once Caribou Community School is completed in August 2020, and as a result the school unit will only need to maintain this building and Caribou High School in the coming years.
The new school project, which totals roughly $50 million, is primarily funded by the Maine Department of Education. A $2 million local portion of the project intended to create a second gym and enlarged music room will be paid over the next 20 years. This year’s portion will be a $158,234 local contribution from Caribou and a $6,948 local contribution from Stockholm.
Local revenues from the EPS also reduced by $660,344 this year. Cuts to the budget include a $551,200 reduction for capital improvement projects, a $185,000 reduction for school buses, $122,600 to school technology programs, as well as cuts to the elimination of the swim and golf programs. Additionally, $292,000 was cut as a result of removing four proposed teaching positions.
In the coming years, Doak said future needs for the school include $120,000 to replace the underground fuel storage tank at Caribou High School, which must be done next year; $130,000 for paving the Caribou High School parking lot; and $385,000 to replace the track at the high school, which Doak said needed replacement about two years ago.
Additions to the 2019-20 budget include salary increases per collective agreements, which resulted in “everybody in the district getting a raise,” health insurance increases, LED light conversion, and roof renovation at the Caribou Performing Arts Center, which is part of the High School.
Voters approved all 17 articles in the budget by a show of hands, however article 14, the request for additional local funds, required those in attendance to vote via written ballot. The school’s board of directors recommended a $444,580 increase for special education, debt service, as well as a mandated adjustment in property and casualty insurance. This measure was approved with 20 in favor and five opposed.
All in all, the approved budget resulted in a $187,791 increase in local taxes for Caribou and a $4,973 increase for Stockholm’s local taxes.