BATH — Next year’s proposed $38.3 million Regional School Unit 1 budget reflects a 13% spending hike, but without a required bond payment on Morse High School —  now under construction — the increase would be just 3.4%, school officials say.

The $19.3 million to be assessed in taxes to RSU 1’s four communities is up 3.4%. For a home valued at $200,000 in each, the tax increase would be $20.08 in Bath, $51.72 in Arrowsic, $24.30 in Phippsburg, and $40.54 in Woolwich, according to RSU 1 Business Manager Debra Clark.

The first $3.2 million principal bond payment on the new Morse High will largely cause the district’s debt service to rise from $3.4 million to $7.3 million – a $3.9 million increase. Of the $16.7 million in state aid to education RSU 1 is due to receive – $3.4 million more than the prior year – $2.9 million is offsetting the $3.2 million local burden, which helps reduce the tax impact, Clark said.

That’s important, given the increasingly challenging economic climate caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“In this very unsettled and difficult time, as it affects the communities, as it affects individual families, we’re certainly trying to be sensitive to that,” said RSU 1 Chairman Steve August. “… We’ve looked for ways to keep that increase to a minimum, and yet still support the educational needs of the community, and the board’s commitment to the kids in the community.”

Salaries and benefits, which comprise nearly 60% of the budget, are increasing 4.3% to reach $22.9 million. New positions proposed for next year include additional educational technicians at Bath Middle, Dike Newell, Morse High and Woolwich Central schools, each with approximately $40,000 salaries. RSU 1 has paid a contracted fee to a private behavioral health professional, but would replace those services with four positions, Clark explained.

As a result, the net budget increase is about $40,000.

“This will allow us to have those ed techs on our own staff,” she said.

RSU 1 also looks to budget for an English Language Learner and Bath Regional Career & Technical Center educational technician, both about $40,000, to address greater needs.

A literacy interventionist at Woolwich could cost another $65,000-$70,000. New technology staffing could cost about $50,000, maintenance about $45,000, and central services about $15,000, Clark said.

A public budget forum is to be held by virtual meeting April 27, and the School Board is due May 4 to adopt the budget. Depending on the state of the pandemic next month, a district budget meeting could be held May 26, and a budget validation referendum June 9.

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