RSU 68 directors approve $13.4M budget

District meeting set for May 30

DOVER-FOXCROFT – The RSU 68 School Board approved a proposed 2023-24 budget totaling $13,383,764 during a May 9 meeting at the SeDoMoCha School. The directors also set the annual district budget meeting for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 30, which will follow a 6 p.m. information session, and the referendum vote in the four RSU 68 communities for Tuesday, June 13.

Superintendent Stacy Shorey said the near $13.4 million figure is up by $566,665 (approximately 4 percent) from the current academic year’s figure of $12,817,099.

She said initial work on the budget began at the administrative level in December and in January the finances began to be put together. She said RSU 68 learned of its state funding at the end of January, and this amount is up by about $280,000 from 2022-23’s. The finance committee met from January to March to refine the budget.

In March the state announced an additional $42 million would be going to school districts across Maine. Shorey said for RSU 68 this means $158,000 less will need to be raised through local taxes.

The combined assessments between Charleston, Dover-Foxcroft, Monson, and Sebec is up by $94,971 (2.08 percent) to $4,670,845 

Charleston and Sebec would each see a slight decrease in proportional shares of the 2023-24 budget, down about $5,000 and $3,600 respectively from the current figures of $621,975 and $682,845.

For Dover-Foxcroft the increase would be a bit more than $19,300 from $2,771,576. Monson would have the largest increase in RSU 68, up about $84,000 from $499,477. Shorey said the community’s valuation has gone up and per the state funding formula, the Maine Department of Education deems the town having the ability to pay the full cost of educating its students.

The total budget approved at the May 30 district meeting is moved for a referendum vote on June 13. The school board has its June meeting scheduled for Wednesday, June 14.

In June 2022 the 2022-23 budget was approved by a count of 725-230 across the four communities.

In other business, the school board heard about several programs including a transcendentalism club that meets after school with students learning about local history, geography, art, literature, and more through the works of Henry David Thoreau.

Grade 8 social studies teacher Chris Miller, who leads the club with grade 8 English/Language Arts teacher Gabrielle Jolin, said the half dozen students in the club have learned about the regional connection through the Thoreau-Wabanaki Trail. The trail traces the route Thoreau traveled in the 19th century through Piscataquis County and beyond, and the group has explored some sites in and around Moosehead Lake.

Jolin said this summer she will be taking part in Approaching Walden, a 6-day professional development program through The Walden Woods Project at Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. She said she was one of a dozen applicants chosen from a field of about 80 for the program to help educators bring Thoreau’s philosophies into the classroom.

Miller and Jolin said they have a field trip planned for June 2 so the students can see where Thoreau lived and wrote.

Monson Arts Director Chantel Harris said the organization partners with area schools, including SeDoMoCha Middle School, to bring students and its artists in residence together. 

She said earlier in the day Tri-County Technical Center students came north to learn about animation with a Maine College of Art & Design professor. “In four hours they made a couple of minutes of animation,” Harris said.

Middle school art teacher Sarah DellaRatta explained photos depicting “found object sculptures” as students created using driftwood and rocks. “Something old into something new is the message we looked at, pieces of art can be made from anything around,” she said.

DellaRatta said connecting with other artists has been great for her.

Harris said Monson Arts would like to partner with more schools.

Assistant Principal/Athletic Director Cameron Archer gave an update on Eagle spring sports.

He said A baseball has started the season 3-1 and A softball is 2-2, with each team having a roster of 14 players. The B baseball and softball teams have only played two games due to weather postponements, and each roster also has a dozen-plus players. The Penquis League playoffs are scheduled to start in three weeks.

The SeDoMoCha track team has 35 members and the squad had its first meet the week before in Newport after the first planned competition was rained out.

Archer said fall sports sign-up sheets would be heading home the next week, to help with planning for this athletics season.

In her report Shorey said teachers Brian and Cassidy Miller are the new owners of Little Linus Childcare and they plan to move the operation to the new RSU 68 central office at 572 Bangor Road. Little Linus Childcare would rent space from the district at the former home of the Charlotte White Center main office before the organization merged with Penquis,

Shorey said a future possibility could be to have the TCTC early childhood program work with the Little Linus Childcare. 

Last year RSU 68 central office staff moved out of the second floor of the SeDomoCha School several miles up Route 15. In 2022 the district purchased the Bangor Road property from Penquis for $750,000 to serve as the new home of the central office. The former central office space at SeDoMoCha has been converted into a pair of special education classrooms.

Shorey also said Thursday, June 15 is the last day of school and this will be a half day.

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