The Bath-based Regional School Unit 1 Board of Directors discussed areas to cut next year’s proposed budget Monday.

BATH — Due June 8 to adopt a budget for next year, the Regional School Unit 1 Board of Directors may look into cutting stipends for coaches and non-academic programs to mitigate taxpayer impacts amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Next year’s proposed $38.3 million budget reflects a 13% spending hike; however, without a required bond payment on the new Morse High School — now under construction — the increase would be just 3.4%, according to school officials.

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 hike 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.

Concerned by the impact on RSU 1 taxpayers who may be struggling during difficult economic times, board member Jennifer Ritch-Smith of Woolwich on Monday asked school officials to consider cuts in several categories, including field trips, co- and extracurricular stipends for coaches and advisors, and non-academic programs. She also wondered if there was a way to postpone RSU 1’s heavy Morse High bond payment a year to ease financial pressures in the fiscal year 2021 budget.

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.

“I am very concerned if we remain at this budget that townspeople are going to struggle to pay an increase in the (tax) rate,” Ritch-Smith said.


RSU 1 Board Chairman Steve August said Clark and RSU 1 Superintendent Patrick Manuel could “go back and take a look at these cost centers and see whether there are additional places to find some savings.”

It’s unclear how much money could be saved from all of Ritch-Smith’s suggested cuts. Clark said Tuesday that she had yet to meet with Manuel to discuss details.

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.

As a result, the net budget increase is about $40,000. “This will allow us to have those ed techs on our own staff,” Clark said.

RSU 1 also proposes 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.

Depending on the state of the pandemic next month, a district budget meeting could be held June 30, and a budget validation referendum July 14.

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