BATH — In order to ease the tax burden in its four-community district, the Regional School Unit 1 Board of Directors may adopt a reduced budget that would decrease an initial 3.4% tax hike to 2.1%.

For a home valued at $200,000 in each community, the tax hike from the school budget alone would be $41.32 in Arrowsic, $15.74 in Phippsburg and $9.74 in Woolwich, while Bath could see a $10.62 reduction, according to RSU 1 Business Manager Debra Clark.

The proposed $38.2 million budget, which the School Board is due to adopt June 8, is up 12.78% over current spending. Without a required bond payment on the new Morse High School — now under construction — the increase would have been just 3.11%, according to school officials.

Nearly $89,000 in recently reduced expenditures includes almost $71,000 in employee benefits, due to the district budgeting for a 7% health insurance hike, but the rate ending up being flat. The district also removed about $11,000 budgeted in additional central office support and $6,800 for carpet at Phippsburg Elementary School will actually be done this fiscal year with available funds.

Another $150,000 in additional savings this year – from the remote learning caused by the coronavirus pandemic – will go toward fiscal year 2021 revenue, helping to offset the tax impact, Clark said.

“As we have pledged to … the taxpayers, we continue to look at our budget and to take those spending reductions where we feel (they) do not impinge on our educational and instructional program,” RSU 1 Chairman Steve August said.

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.

Salaries and benefits, which comprise nearly 60% of the budget, are increasing 3.94% to reach $22.8 million. New proposed positions 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.

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, according to Clark.

RSU 1 residents have two opportunities to vote on the budget, first at a district budget meeting planned for June 30 and finally at the July 14 budget validation referendum.

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