Lower turnout than expected for RSU 50 budget vote

4 years ago

DYER BROOK, Maine — A lower than anticipated turnout of voters in the communities that comprise RSU 50, Southern Aroostook Community School, gave their support Aug. 18 to the $5.6 million budget.

The overall $5,689,349 budget passed at the polls, 123 in favor, 28 opposed during a special election.

The vote was originally slated to be held at the July primaries, but due to a printing error in the warrant, the vote could not happen at that time. Instead a special election had to be called, paid for by the law firm DrummondWoodsum of Portland, who prepared the erroneous warrant documents.

“[It was a ] lower turnout for the vote than it would have been if the vote had been held in July as originally planned,” said RSU 50 Superintendent Jon Porter. “I thought the budget had good support from the voters. Article 1 had 123 yes, 28 no which equals 81 percent in favor. I am very appreciative of the continued community support for the school, especially during these difficult and uncertain times.”

A breakdown of the vote by communities is as follows: Crystal, nine in favor, one opposed; Dyer Brook, 17 in favor, two opposed; Hersey, one in favor, one opposed; Island Falls, 37 in favor, 12 opposed; Merrill, 11 in favor, two opposed; Oakfield, 38 in favor, eight opposed; and Smyrna, 10 in favor, two opposed.

The change in voting dates had little effect on the number of people who voted on the school budget. In comparison, the 2019 school budget passed 105 in favor and 63 opposed (a difference of just 17 voters).

The budget features an increase of $181,545 (3.3 percent) over last year’s plan. The district is receiving an additional $126,359 from the state in the form of its education subsidy, but must come up with $1,540,455 for its local share in order to receive that money. The required local amount is up $2,660 over last year.

Because the district’s budget exceeds the state and local amounts determined by the state’s essential programs and services formula, an extra $948,025 is needed in additional local funds from the taxpayers.

A 3.2 percent increase in wages for staff is one of the larger factors driving the increased budget. The salaries were negotiated as part of the district’s collective bargaining agreement. In addition, the state increased the minimum teacher salary from $30,000 to $35,000 annually.