A new superintendent will be announced and residents will comb through the $31 million budget.

Durham Community School, for the first time, will host the annual Regional School Unit 5 budget meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 25, when residents of the three RSU towns will scrutinize the proposed $31 million budget.

It will be an important night in one other respect for RSU 5, as the school board plans to name a new superintendent to replace the outgoing Ed McDonough. The first-year superintendent announced his resignation two months ago, and the school board has been interviewing candidates for the job. The board will meet at 5:30 p.m.,to address the superintendent’s job.

At 6:30, the budget meeting will begin in a town that earlier this year considered – but rejected – withdrawal from RSU 5. Residents of Durham, Freeport and Pownal will vote on the 11 articles on the warrant. While the referendum vote will be an up-or-down on the bottom line, voters who attend the May 25 budget meeting have the ability to amend each article.

The proposed 2017 budget, at $31 million, represents a 5.15 percent increase from this year’s 7 percent spending increase that was approved last June. McDonough is quick to point out that the net impact on taxes will be 1.19 percent, because the board plowed extra revenue from the state into the spending, Moreover, McDonough said, much of the 5.15 percent hike stems from debt service on a $14.6 million renovation of Freeport High School.

“A total of 3 percent of that increase goes to debt service on the high school,” he said. “It’s really only a 2.5 percent increase.”

McDonough said that the draft budget he presented to the board in February has sailed through – thus far, at least – unscathed.

The budget increases support for guidance, nursing, social work and the library. The school board also proposes to bring back a kindergarten jump-start program for children who need accelerated learning programs, and to increase funding for gifted-and-talented students. The budget also includes an additional half-day of professional learning for teachers, and increases funds for bus maintenance and maintenance.

“I think the administrators were very reasonable and thoughtful in their requests,” he said. “There have been few public comments during our Q&As with the public, but people do look hard at a 5.15 percent increase. This budget hearing is where the public decides.”

McDonough said that RSU 5 is “trying to be inclusive” by holding the budget meeting at a venue other than Freeport High.

Jeff Wakeman, chairman of the Durham Board of Selectmen, said in an email that Durham has requested for several years that the budget meeting be held at Durham Community School.

“I do believe that this was approved as a way of reaching out to the town,” Wakeman said.

Wakeman said he has heard “very little” from constituents regarding the budget, but added his own thoughts.

“I personally (not in my position as a selectman) am happy with the proposed budget,” he said. “About two-thirds of the increase in the budget is related to the bond for the high school. I thought the budget process this year was well thought out and executed, as well.”

The annual RSU 5 budget meeting will be held at Durham Community School on Wednesday, May 25.


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