Residents of Dayton, Old Orchard Beach and Saco will have their say Monday on a $42.5 million budget proposed for Regional School Unit 23.

Residents will consider the budget by category — such as regular education, transportation and facilities maintenance — and will be able to make adjustments to the proposed expenditures. The budget then will go to a validation referendum on June 8. Polls will be open in each of the three communities.

Monday’s meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Old Orchard Beach High School.

As proposed, the budget for the 2010-11 school year is up 0.19 percent, $78,694, from this year.

The amount to be raised from property taxes varies by community. Dayton would see an increase of 5.66 percent, Old Orchard Beach would have a decrease of 2.01 percent, and Saco would have an increase of just 0.03 percent.

No jobs would be eliminated under the current proposal. Positions and programs would be added at the elementary and middle school levels and at Old Orchard Beach High School.

A mistake discovered recently in the cost-sharing calculation has produced a greater contribution from Dayton than had been expected.

RSU 23, formed as a result of Maine’s school consolidation law, had a simple formula to determine how much each community would contribute through property taxes in the district’s first year.

School officials didn’t realize that the use of a more complex formula would be triggered for next year’s budget by shifts in state aid and the amount communities must raise to secure those state funds.

Saco Mayor Roland Michaud recently pointed out the error, and the district confirmed the mistake this week, said Sharon LaFlamme, business manager for the district.

The revised calculation means that Dayton would pay $113,420 more than this year. It had expected a decrease of $41,383, said Skip Cushman, Dayton’s representative to the school board.

Cushman said Dayton’s contribution to the district would be $9.41 per $1,000 of assessed value, while the rate would be $7.25 in Saco and $5.81 in Old Orchard Beach.

As Cushman sees it, Dayton and Saco are paying a disproportionate share to support Old Orchard Beach — a problem that he says stems largely from the state’s system of determining funding.

“It’s costing the town of Dayton huge amounts of money,” he said.

Gary Curtis, an Old Orchard Beach representative to the board, disagrees that Dayton is paying more than its fair share.

He notes that Dayton has 9.46 percent of the school population and pays 8.29 percent of the local money for the district. Old Orchard Beach has 21 percent of the school population and pays 33.11 percent, and Saco has 69.53 percent of the students and pays 58 percent of the local total.

“Given the quality of education we’ve put together and given the fact that we haven’t had to let anybody go and given that we’ve been able to enhance what’s in the district, nobody really comes out a loser in this,” Curtis said.

Under the recalculation, Old Orchard Beach would pay about $200,000 less than it did for this year. Before the recalculation, it looked like the town would pay $500,000 less.

Dan Cabral, school board vice chairman and a Saco representative, said he tries to look at the effect on the district as a whole.

“The budget, to me, went up 0.2 percent from last year,” he said. “That’s where I start. To me, that’s fine.”

Both Curtis and Cabral noted that Dayton has money in a reserve fund that could go toward reducing the property tax impact.

Cushman posted an open letter outlining his concerns on Dayton’s town website. He said he wants the town’s voters to know how much they are spending for the district.

“If they don’t want to pay that kind of money — that kind of increase to their property taxes — they need to understand that you have to reduce the budget,” he said.

 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: [email protected]