RSU 68 officials developing 2024-25 budget

DOVER-FOXCROFT — Officials in RSU 68 are in the midst of developing the budget for the 2024-25 academic year. During a meeting Tuesday evening, Feb. 6 at the SeDoMoCha School, Superintendent Stacy Shorey said late last month the district received its preliminary funding report from the Maine Department of Education.

“We did have an increase of $422,000 from last year,” Shorey said about the ED 279 report. In the current RSU 68 budget $7.45 million is provided by the state as part of the near $13.4 million total. The near $13.4 million figure is up by $566,665 (approximately 4.4 percent) from the previous year’s $12,817,099.

“We are working to have no more than a 3 percent increase to taxes,” she said.

The 2023-24 budget 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 at the annual district budget meeting in May). The local contribution was up by nearly $190,000 while the local additional amount was $100,000 less than 2022-23’s.

Shorey said with the current figures three of the four RSU 68 communities would see a slight increase in assessments while Monson’s share would be up by about 7 percent.

The 2023-24 combined current assessments between Charleston, Dover-Foxcroft, Monson, and Sebec are up by $94,971 to a figure of $4,670,845.

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

For Dover-Foxcroft the increase was a bit more than $19,300 from $2,771,576. Monson had an approximate $84,000 increase from $499,477. The community’s valuation went up and per the state funding formula, the Maine Department of Education deemed the town having the ability to pay the full cost of educating its students.

Shorey said the finance committee is scheduled to meet next on Tuesday, Feb. 27. “The goal is to have a draft ready to share,” she said.

In years past the finance committee has worked to bring a proposed budget to the full school board at its April meeting, with a vote by the directors coming in May. Later that month is the annual district budget meeting, with the total spending planning approved then moved to a referendum in June for final approval.

In other business, Shorey said area superintendents and special education directors have met to discuss a state plan to have all 3- and 3-year-olds with IEPs fall under the auspices of local school districts. The MDOE would fund $20,000 per pupil for these students.

“We did volunteer to be in the first round of school districts participating,” Shorey said, saying there could be up to 28 such pupils in 2024-25.

“We don’t anticipate all 28 students coming but we would have room for them,” the superintendent added.

“I’m excited, I think it’s a great opportunity,” Shorey said. “We are definitely seeing great growth with our 3- and 4-year-olds.”

For the current school year RSU 68 was awarded a $166,000 grant to expand the pre-kindergarten program and help serve the children across the region better. The district 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 superintendent’s office at 572 Bangor Road.

Shorey said the Piscataquis Valley Adult Education Cooperative directors met recently and discussed the future of the organization’s home at the Penquis Higher Education Center on Mayo Street in Dover-Foxcroft. 

The town had been speaking with Eastern Maine Community College officials who are looking at long-term strategic planning and are examining the future of the building. 

Shorey said EMCC will not be looking to return the education center to Dover-Foxcroft for at least the next year, but beyond is to be determined.

More than two decades ago EMCC acquired what is today the Penquis Higher Education Center from the town. The building had previously been an elementary school. In addition to being utilized by EMCC, it also currently houses the PCEDC, Eastern Maine Development Corporation, and the PVAEC.

In his report SeDoMoCha School Principal Adam Gudroe mentioned an after-school program has been ongoing this academic year with about 50 regular attendees who take part in STEAM and health and wellness activities as well as programs offered through 4-H, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and Northern Light Health. 

He said on Tuesdays and Thursdays there is math help to enable attendees to work on meeting standards in this subject. “We currently have 12 students taking advantage of this opportunity,” the principal said.

Gudroe said last month a students vs. staff basketball game raised $1,000 for the SeDoMoCha ski program, with the event including a performance by the cheer team.

Assistant Principal/Athletic Director Cameron Archer gave an overview of the 2023-24 winter sports season. 

The boys A basketball team finished with an overall record of 12-1 and captured the Penquis League championship with a 33-31 victory over Mattanawcook Junior High School of Lincoln in a game played at the Ridge View Community School in Dexter. 

The girls A squad went 4-8 and reached the Penquis League semifinals. Both B basketball teams were 4-4.

At the previous week’s Penquis League competition, the SeDoMoCha cheer team finished sixth among eight schools.

Archer said Monday, Feb. 12 will be the start of wrestling practices. He said 26 students have signed up, the most he has seen during his time as athletic director.

SeDoMoCha unified basketball will begin Monday, Feb. 26 with these Eagles set to have a 6-game schedule.

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