BATH — The Regional School Unit 1 Board of Directors on Monday unanimously adopted its $38.2 million fiscal year 2021 budget, which could raise district-wide taxes 2.1%.

For a home valued at $200,000 in each community, the tax hike from the school budget alone could 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 budget, which Clark said received no public comment Monday, 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.

A public hearing will be held Monday, June 22 remotely, due to COVID-19 distancing restrictions.

RSU 1 residents will vote on the budget at referendum July 14, either in person or via absentee ballot Also on that referendum will be a school revolving renovation fund, which Superintendent Patrick Manuel said would pay for conversion from steam to hot water systems and health abatements at the Dike Newell elementary school in Bath.

“This is a project we would have to do anyway with local money,” Manuel explained, but the state Department of Education has awarded RSU 1 an approximately $365,000 loan at zero interest, of which the Maine Municipal Bond Bank will forgive 51%. The district will pay the nearly $179,000 remaining over five years; the first payment is in next year’s budget.


The School Board last month had shaved the spending plan’s tax hike from 3.4% to 2.1%, recognizing the economic strains on many RSU 1 residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

Board Chairman Steve August called the budget “a very responsible proposal at this point,” adding that “we understand the pressure that the towns and families in the district are under, and feel that this budget focuses on the essential parts of our educational mandate, and helps us meet that obligation we have for our students.”

The first $3.2 million principal bond payment on the new Morse High will largely cause RSU 1’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, comprising 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.

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