The Regional School Unit 21 District Budget Meeting is set for 7 p.m. May 16 at the Kennebunk Elementary School gym. Voters will act on a $54.3 million overall budget that evening and on the use of existing funds for a substantial renovation to the athletic complex at Kennebunk High School. Gregory Rec photo/Press Herald

If voters approve the proposed $54.3 million Regional School Unit 21 budget May 16 and in a validation vote June 14, the impact will be a bit less than in the current year for taxpayers in Arundel and Kennebunk. Property owners in Kennebunkport will pay a bit more.

Voters will act on the proposed warrant at the RSU 21 District Budget Meeting, set for 7 p.m. Monday, May 16 in the gym at Kennebunk Elementary School, 177 Alewive Road. If the budget is approved by voters that evening, a validation vote takes place in each of the three district communities on June 14.

The overall budget is up $1.4 million from the current year, or by 2.72 percent, but the $54.3 million total is offset by a couple of factors: The state’s contribution is $6 million, up by nearly $460,000 from the current year. And the district is poised to use $3.2 million in carry forward, which means the total proposed amount passed on to taxpayers is $44.9 million, about $222,000 less than the current year.

“We were very conscientious about our needs,” said Superintendent Terri Cooper in a recent interview. She said the district is prioritizing, strategizing and looking ahead to determine how to best add what the district will need as time goes on.

Cooper said the district has been able to use federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds to support personnel and materials. With those funds poised to end in 2024, she said the district will absorb the positions over time.

RSU 21 School Board student representative Anne Murer, Superintendent Terri Cooper and RSU 21 Board Chair Art LeBlanc recently discussed the proposed budget and upcoming vote, set for 7 p.m. May 16 at Kennebunk Elementary School. Tammy Wells photo

“Because Dr. Cooper was able to get ESSER funds and applied them, we have been able to mitigate what we’ve spent,” said RSU 21 School Board chair Art LeBlanc. Also, he added, $3.2 million in carry over has been applied to the proposed budget to provide tax relief.


The budget includes some new positions – a new half-time art teacher at Kennebunk High School, a part-time guidance position at Kennebunk Elementary School; a half-time administrator at Sea Road School, three new special education teachers, and one grounds person in facilities.

The district will look to absorb four positions currently funded by emergency relief funds. A Grade 2 teaching position at Kennebunk Elementary School will be eliminated because of fewer students. And there are some savings due to retirements.

The warrant includes a separate article that would use $2.8 million in existing funds for extensive renovations to the athletic complex at Kennebunk High School. Article 19 asks voters to authorize a transfer of $2.8 million from fund balances to the district’s capital reserve fund for the project. The existing funds, plus $1.2 million left from a construction project and $250,000 previously allocated but not spent on track repairs, all contribute to the $4.2 million project. LeBlanc noted the renovation – which includes a turf field and the equipment and materials to maintain it; a new practice field, new code and ADA compliant bleachers, new lights, and more – is being paid upfront, rather than bonded, so there is no increase to taxpayers.

Cooper and LeBlanc said once the high school athletic complex renovations are completed, the district will look to other facilities and address long-term needs.

“Everything being worked on now will be used by the community,” said Kennebunk High School junior Anne Murer, a student representative on the school board.

As to the budget, key drivers include increased energy costs of more than 35 percent, or $331,800 more than the current year; overall salary increases of 5.62 percent, about $1.5 million more; benefits increase of 3.48 percent, or $308,585 and others, from a $9,000 increase in rubbish removal costs to $50,000 for a new payroll system. The proposed budget also includes $200,000 more in the contingency fund, for unknown increases in utility costs. There are a couple of decreases: overall debt service is down 15.69 percent, or by $946,456, and private school tuition is down 7.7 percent, or by $154,775.

Based on today’s municipal property assessments, an Arundel resident with a property valued at $300,000 would pay $39 less in property tax than this year; and in Kennebunk, $24 less. In Kennebunkport, property owners would pay $42 more.

“This budget meets student and staff needs and does not burden the taxpayer,” said Cooper.

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