FY 21 Budget Documents
RSU 24 PROPOSES A BUDGET FOR UNCERTAIN TIMES
At its May 19 meeting, the Regional School Unit 24 Board of Directors approved General Fund and Adult Education budgets that result in a slight increase in total education spending and a slight decrease in the total amount of local funds needed. The proposed General Fund budget is $17,353,898.17, an increase of $338,859.02, or 1.99%. However, the $13,005,084.79 local share of the budget is a decrease of $22,560.70, or -0.17%. Similarly, the Adult Education budget, at $428,566.24 is a $21,616.46 increase, but the $239,145.30 in local dollars needed is $6,099.74, or -2.5%, less than the current year.
There are so many uncertainties out there. But it is unlikely that school next year will look like the education that we or our children experienced. It is more apt to resemble a hybrid of traditional in-person learning (suitably distanced) and remote learning similar to how this school year ended. That presents a whole host of planning and budgeting challenges that cannot yet be determined. Thus, it became important to the Board to make sure the budget contained enough funding to respond to yet unknown student, logistical, and environmental needs. At the same time, the Board fully understands that families are suffering economically from this situation. Jobs have been lost. And jobs that were expected over the summer may not be there. This will have a significant impact on the ability of our towns to raise revenue. So it was important to them to also find a way to hold the line on assessments.
Summaries of the RSU 24 General Fund and Adult Education budgets appear below. Due to the on-going fluctuations in both resident student enrollment and property valuation, the impact varies for different towns. Most of our towns will see little change in their assessments....either a little bit more or a little bit less. Gouldsboro had large increases in both student population and property valuation and will, therefore, get hit with the largest assessment increase. Winter Harbor next door had the largest decrease in student population and a modest valuation increase and will therefore see the largest decrease in its assessment. As we all know, it ebbs and flows over the years and seems to even out over time.
In response to the need to maintain public safety and social distancing, the budget approval process will look very different this year. On June 3, Governor Mills issued Executive Order 56 which authorized the elimination of District Budget Meetings for most districts that could not safely distance a large audience. The order applies to Town Meetings as well. The District Budget Meeting will be replaced with a Public Hearing on June 24 that will allow the public to also comment and ask questions from most devices with an internet connection or cellular data connection. Details for access to the meeting appear on the RSU 24 Homepage: www.rsu24.org. Then voters will have the opportunity to act on the proposed budget at the July 14 statewide referendum at the polls in their towns.
Copies of the Notice of Public Hearing, the School Budget Public Hearing Guide, and a Sample Ballot appear below. There will be four questions on the ballot for voters to consider on July 14. Question 1 asks for approval of the total budget and the local share which, as noted earlier, is less than the current year budget by -$22,561. The information provided below the question references a “state and local spending target” which is actually not a target at all. It refers to the Essential Programs and Services funding model, which is exactly what it sounds like….a model…that was designed to reward districts that operate large urban or regional schools. Our district does not fit well into that model in that we operate small, community based schools that are geographically scattered. Moreover, even the smallest of our schools offer the full array of core educational programming and specials like library, guidance, art, music, and physical education; as well as all of the required special education and therapy services. Our small schools also offer extra-curricular activities like show choir and a full schedule of interscholastic athletics to our students. None of these programs are recognized under the model as “essential” in a small school. Nor does the model recognize that four of our towns have school choice, meaning that our budget not only pays to operate our schools, but we also pay toward the operation of schools outside of our district. This is somewhat unique, and not something the RSU 24 Board can unilaterally change. It would have to be initiated by the voters, as it was the voters who approved school choice in the RSU 24 Organizational Plan.
Question 2 asks for approval to allow the RSU 24 Board the authority to move more than the statutorily allowed 5% from one cost center to another. Approval would allow the district the flexibility to respond to an ever changing set of circumstances as this pandemic unfolds to address pressing and dynamic student needs within the existing budget.
Question 3 asks for approval of the Adult Education budget and local appropriation. Again, the local share of that budget is -$6,100, or 2.5% less, than the current year Adult Education budget.
The final ballot question (Question 4) asks for approval to transfer $400,000 from the projected end-of-year fund balance to a Capital Improvement Reserve that was established by the voters last year. The major source of these funds is money that was fronted by the district from 2016 until 2019 to pay for design services that led to State Board of Education and voter approval of the new school. The money was repaid to the district from Bond proceeds earlier this year. There will also be more money than usual left over from this school year budget due to the closure of school buildings in March. Approval of this question would allow the district sufficient funds to respond to an emergency, should one occur at any of our facilities. It would also be available to short-circuit a big tax increase should State subsidy see a catastrophic decrease due to the expected State revenue shortfall that is likely to result from the sales tax and income tax losses caused by the pandemic.
These are uncertain times. It is difficult to predict what school will look like this fall. But one thing we do know for sure. The experience of our school closings and the loss of the social, emotional, and educational support that come with the school experience has left many of our students scarred and traumatized. There will be a need for far more intensive interventions, both social/emotional and educational than they have ever needed before. Please take the opportunity to make your wishes known by voting, either in person or by absentee ballot. Thank you so much.
If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact Superintendent Michael Eastman or Business Manager David Bridgham 422-2017