RSU 68 residents move $13.4 million budget to June 13 referendum

DOVER-FOXCROFT — The 20 voters attending the annual RSU 68 district budget meeting on May 30 at the SeDoMoCha School approved a proposed 2023-24 budget totaling $13,383,764. This figure is now moved to a referendum vote in the district towns of Charleston, Dover-Foxcroft, Monson, and Sebec on Tuesday, June 13.

Superintendent Stacy Shorey said the near $13.4 million figure is up by $566,665 (approximately 4.4 percent) from the current academic year’s $12,817,099.

The near $13.4 million is made up of $7.45 million from the state — a near $439,000 increase — and close to $6 million in various local revenue sources. This includes a $3,953,595 local contribution and another $647,481 in local additional monies (those above what the state requires and approved via a specific warrant article). The local contribution is up by nearly $190,000 while the local additional amount is $100,000 less than 2022-23’s.

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 would need to be raised through local taxes.

“Overall you will see a 2.08 percent increase to taxpayers from last year to this year,” she said.

The combined assessments between Charleston, Dover-Foxcroft, Monson, and Sebec is up by $94,971 to a figure of $4,670,845 “Two of the town’s assessments went down and one has a modest increase,” the superintendent said.

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.

Shorey said RSU 68’s proportional $69,769 share of the total $434,318 Piscataquis Valley Adult Education Cooperative budget is up by about $5,805 from 2022-23. A separate article for this expenditure was approved at the district meeting, along with all 20 other articles with minimal discussion over 20-plus minutes.

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

When asked, Shorey explained the district’s administrative team applied for and was awarded a $166,000 grant to expand the pre-kindergarten program. RSU 68 is partnering with SAD 4 of Guilford, the Milo-based SAD 41, and SAD 46 of the Dexter area as well as Child Development Services to provide four classrooms for this program at the new superintendent’s office at 572 Bangor Road.

She said last year 20 pre-K students with unmet needs were found, and expanding pre-K in a collaborative effort will help serve the children across the region better. “Currently we have nine students enrolled, we have someone from every school district except Guilford,” the superintendent said. Shorey said transportation is provided for the participants, and there is a maximum enrollment number of 32.

If there is room, the hope is to expand the program to include some 3-year-olds. 

In her written report, Shorey said a daycare program will be renting space at the superintendent’s office so the building should be pretty lively next year.

At the May school board meeting, Shorey said teachers Brian and Cassidy Miller are the new owners of Little Linus Childcare and they plan to move the operation from East Main Street to 572 Bangor Road. 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, sensory room, and occupational therapist’s office.

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