Regional School Unit 21 voters will gather in the Kennebunk Elementary School gym at 7 p.m. May 11 to vote on the education budget for the coming year. A district validation vote is June 8. Tammy Wells photo

KENNEBUNK – Voters in an RSU 21 meeting May 11 will say aye or nay to a $52.9 million budget for the coming fiscal year. Of the total, $45.1 million is to come from taxation, up $61,000 from the current year.

RSU 21 board members finalized the budget April 26, ahead of the district meeting, set for 7 p.m., May 11 at Kennebunk Elementary School. Voters district-wide are poised to act on a validation vote June 8.

Health insurance premium increases came in less than expected, and the RSU 21 School Board on April 26 voted to reduce that expense by about $350,000.

School board members later voted to reduce the amount of carry forward from the undesignated fund balance – the money applied to a budget to help reduce the tax bite – to an even $2 million, rather than $2.35 million, reasoning that doing so will leave more money in the fund to help reduce the impact of taxes in the next budget.

“By doing this, in theory, it will leave that much more in undesignated fund balance for (next) year,” said member Ira Camp.

Operations Manager Steve Marquis laid out the impact to each of the three communities if the budget is approved by voters as presented.

Arundel would see tax increase for education of .78 percent in the mil rate. The RSU 21 budget would increase the mil rate, currently at $16.73, by a projected 13 cents, to $16.86, as proposed. Taxpayers would pay $1,686 per $100,000 of valuation for education.

Kennebunk would see a tax increase for education of .46 percent increase in the mil rate. The RSU 21 budget would increase the mil rate, currently at $14.15, by a projected 6 cents, to $14.21, as proposed. Taxpayers would pay $1,422 per $100,000 of valuation for education.

Kennebunkport will see a tax decrease in education costs of .97 percent on the mil rate. The RSU 21 budget would decrease the mil rate, currently at $9.45, by about 9 cents, to $9.36, Marquis calculated. Taxpayers would pay $936 per $100,000 valuation for education.

Arundel’s contribution to the RSU 21 budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is $5.67 million; Kennebunk, $28.22 million and Kennebunkport, $11.26 million – adding up to the $45.1 million from taxation.

A few highlights of the budget shows a projected decrease in legal fees from $270,000 to $200,000; a decrease in non-labor contingency finds from $436,877 to $200,000; a decrease in debt interest of $253,824; an increase in community relations from $2,800 to $41,400; an increase in fiscal services of $29,000 due to a new half-time payroll position; part-time staff increases in special services totaling $55,127; an increase in the human resources director’s salary from $91,000 to $120,000; salary and benefits for a half-time human resource associate at $41,715; HR systems software repairs and maintenance at $42,000, among other budget changes.

The budget calls for the reduction of one full-time classroom teacher and the increase of a part-time art teacher at Middle School of the Kennebunks, and the addition of a full-time math teacher and a part-time French teacher at Kennebunk High School. The budget calls for the addition of a part-time education technician at Kennebunk Elementary School.

During the school board meeting, there was an inquiry about an increase to $270,000 from $29,000 for curriculum implementation. Assistant Superintendent Peg Parkhurst said the current English Language Learners programming won’t be able to be serviced, so a new core reading program for K-5 will be required, estimated at $250,000. About $20,000 is earmarked for a review of the social studies program.

School Board member Louis Braxton, citing soaring housing costs, proposed including a $25,000 housing allowance for the superintendent, whom he added did not know he planned to make the request.

School Board member Sarah Dore said she was uncomfortable discussing the situation, especially since Superintendent Terri Cooper had not been aware that the matter would be voiced at the meeting. Dore said she doesn’t support a housing allowance for one person. Member Ken Levesque pointed out that there are many people employed by the district seeing housing cost impacts.

Braxton later noted a housing allowance could also help attract new teachers, but withdrew his motion.

School board members acknowledged housing costs will continue to be an issue, and member Tim Stentiford suggested the matter be discussed as the district contemplates its strategic plan.

To view the budget online, visit https://drive.google.com/file/d/1et8-77bN0QjfXi9LEmZwyBg4jEx12EPz/view.

The vote to approve the budget and send it to district voters was unanimous.

Comments are not available on this story.