FREEPORT — The Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors unanimously adopted a budget for fiscal year 2020 that includes an increase of $1.1 million over this year’s $33 million budget. 

The budget recommended by Superintendent Becky Foley estimates that $26.8 million will be raised from taxation. The tax increase districtwide will be 4.15 percent, up from $25.8 million.

If the budget is enacted as adopted March 27, taxes would increase in Durham by 2.99 percent, or 59 cents per $1,000 of real estate valuation, up from $19.70; in Freeport taxes would increase 2.68 percent, or 40 cents, up from $15.05, and in Pownal taxes could increase 2.86 percent, or 51 cents, up from $18. 

Chairwoman Michelle Ritcheson called the spending increase and resulting tax rate increase “modest.”

“We are all in agreement that this budget serves our kids and teachers, as well as keeps things responsible for taxpayers,” Ritcheson said. 

The factors driving the increase include hiring a full-time special education teacher ($82,000) and full-time special education educational technician ($41,000) at Mast Landing School, as well as adding a full-time teacher at Morse Street School ($82,000).

Two full-time educational technicians, as well as a part-time ed tech are needed at Morse Street School, Mast Landing School, and Pownal Elementary School ($83,000). Another full-time teacher is needed at Freeport High School for the Endeavor program, an alternative educational venue for juniors. 

Other drivers of the increase include hiring an additional pre-kindergarten teacher at the Morse Street School ($46,400) and allotting more money for field trips, an additional $32,000 for next year.

The only staffing cut being proposed is a half-time teacher at Freeport Middle School.

Three upcoming meetings, one in each town, are scheduled to explain the proposed budget. The meetings are set for 6-6:30 p.m. Wednesdays on April 10 at Durham Community School; April 24 at Pownal Elementary School, and May 8 at Freeport High School.

The next step in the budget approval process is a town meeting-style vote on May 22 at the annual budget meeting at Freeport High School, where residents of all three towns will vote article by article on the proposal.

Residents will then vote on the spending plan in a budget validation referendum on June 11.

Patti McDonald can be reached at 780-9123 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @pmcdonaldme.

The Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors on March 27 unanimously adopted Superintendent Becky Foley’s proposed fiscal year 2020 budget. 

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