The RSU 1 Board of Directors voted Monday evening to include two new administrative positions in the district’s proposed 2022-2023 budget, a move that could raise the local tax burden by 3.57% over the current year.

At the second public reading of the proposed budget, board members debated how to fund a new Morse High School dean of students and a district response to intervention coordinator, two positions Superintendent Patrick Manuel listed as priority requests.

“A lot of work has gone into this budget to be very conservative,” Bath representative Jamie Dorr said. “I continue to support locally funding the RTI, and that is a difficult decision because I know it does increase taxes.”

The proposed $40.2 million budget would be an increase of nearly $1.4 million over the current figure. It also marks an increase of about $60,000 over the board’s first proposed budget, which it read in March.

It’s difficult to know how taxpayers’ property tax bills would change under the proposed budget, school officials said, as rising property evaluations could affect education tax rates.

Jennifer Ritch-Smith of Woolwich advocated for using federal COVID-relief money to fund the response to intervention coordinator position, which aims to help teachers close achievement gaps at the elementary and middle school levels. This approach would have cut local contributions to the budget by about $105,000.


“Wait, if we have funding already, why are you reaching your hand out to me and asking for more?” Ritch-Smith said, summarizing the views of Woolwich residents she spoke with before the meeting. “I know it’s not that simple, but I think that’s important at least to consider.”

Ritch-Smith cited a stagnating economy and her constituents’ struggles to afford the rising costs of necessities like housing, gas and food as reasons for keeping the tax burden down.

Yet other board members argued relying on temporary government aid would force the district to either cut important positions or hike taxes dramatically in coming years.

“We know that over the next two years, we’re not going to want all our social work to go away, all our nursing to go away, all our instructional coaching to go away,” said Lorna Ryan. “I don’t know that everyone’s going to remember that we saved $25,000 (Ryan’s estimate for the amount Woolwich residents could have saved) when we’re looking at increasing the budget by a substantial amount in a year or two.”

The board also expressed fears that it would be difficult to attract talented candidates for a position with temporary funding.

By using local tax dollars to pay for the new positions, said Lou Ensel, the district will be able to set aside federal aid to help fund the Bath Regional Career and Technical Center, which may face supply chain-related price hikes in the fall.

Ritch-Smith was the lone member to vote against the budget.

Citizens will vote on the proposal at a district budget meeting on May 31 before a final referendum on June 14.

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