FREEPORT — The School Committee unanimously approved a fiscal year 2010 operating budget Monday night, with an increase of 3.02 percent, or $438,000, over this year’s budget.
Now, the $14.95 million budget goes to the Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors, who with the help of the Freeport and Durham school business managers, will create a consolidated budget.
While the RSU board does not have clear leadership to assist in the budget process, the  superintendent search committee was expected to recommend itschoice for leadership on Wedednesday, March 11, but has delayed the decision another two weeks.
RSU board Chairwoman Laurie Poissonnier said the subcommittee will meet again March 20, and have a recommendation for the larger board March 25. She said more information and time is needed to make a decision.
The two candidates are Freeport and Pownal Superintendent Elaine Tomaszewski and Durham and Lisbon Superintendent Shannon Welsh.
For now, Tomaszewski has helped to create a lean Freeport budget to be merged with the other RSU school budgets.
School Committee Chairman Chris Leighton said the approved budget is a “base budget” because the RSU will need to work with it, and because federal stimulus money has not yet been determined.
The School Committee did, however, request the restoration of a few items that were originally removed from the superintendent’s preliminary budget. The additions increased the budget by nearly $69,000, and restored a literacy teacher at Morse Street, an eighth-grade education technician at the Middle School, and $3,000 for library books at Morse Street and Mast Landing schools.
Leighton said the $30,000 available for curriculum coordinator work is the most important  recommendation from the School Committee. In addition, Leighton said he would encourage the RSU board to contemplate a literacy program similar to Everyday Math. These suggestions were outlined in a letter sent to the RSU board with a copy of the approved Freeport budget.
Tomaszewski said although budgets have been approved by all three towns, the RSU board has the ability to modify, reduce or increase the budget as deem necessary.
“This is an important budget, as it is the first RSU budget and the first time we’ve worked through this,” Tomaszewski said. “We need to be thorough and fiscally responsible.”
Tomaszewski said the RSU budget process will include a series of public meetings for residents to offer feedback. In May, residents will meet in a town meeting to participate in a straw poll on the RSU budget. Finally, there will be a budget validation referendum vote on the consolidated budget in June.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110, or [email protected]

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