Stuart Hedstrom • July 18, 2017
MILO — Late last month SAD 41 voters turned down a proposed $8,500,571 budget for the 2017-18 academic year, by a combined total of 270 to 68 across the district communities of Atkinson, Brownville, LaGrange and Milo. As part of the newly-approved state budget SAD 41 will be receiving approximately $263,000 more in state subsidy for 2017-18 and during a July 12 meeting the school board made a motion to use all these funds to reduce the assessment for the four district towns in the next version of the spending plan to be brought forward later in the summer.
“Here is the computation of votes, which as you know was not close 270 ‘no’ to 68 ‘yes,’” Superintendent Michael Wright said, as the school board needed to formally approve the June 29 referendum figures.
“We did get some good news today, I got an email from (the Maine Department of Education) saying an additional subsidy will be in the amount of $263,000,” he said. “It will be up to the board to decide what to do with that.”
Wright added that he thought the increase in subsidy might have totaled around $89,000 and not the $263,000.
“I think the biggest concern any town had was putting it back on the mill rate,” board member Denise Hamlin said about why the proposed budget was voted down by about a four to one margin.
The combined total local contributions between the four SAD 41 communities in the budget brought forward last month was $2,582,104, just under $297,100 more than the year before. Atkinson’s $272,498 contribution in the proposed 2017-18 SAD 41 budget was up by $33,590, Brownville’s $730,106 share was $88,642 more than for the previous year, LaGrange would have seen a $39,568 increase to a figure of $409,982 and for Milo the community’s share of the proposed 2017-18 spending plan would have been $1,169,517 an increase of $135,296.
While the exact proposed town assessments would still need to calculated, the application of the $263,000 would mean the increase to the combined total local contributions would be a little more than $34,000.
“I think we heard the voice loud and clear from taxpayers, it was 270 to 68 and I think we would be well served to take that $263,000 and use it moving forward,” Wright said. “We could show a good faith effort to take that new money and apply it to the tax base.”
The superintendent said if the school board decided to use all the $263,000 to reduce the four towns’ tax commitment then he could have an updated budget, meeting dates, and accompanying warrants ready by the ensuing week.
“I will get back to you ASAP with some dates,” Wright said, once a motion on the $263,000 was approved.
He said the board would need to give its approval to a 2017-18 budget. From there a district budget meeting and informational session would be scheduled and a date for a referendum in Atkinson, Brownville, LaGrange and Milo would be set. Wright said a minimum of seven days is needed between when the directors OK a budget and the district meeting and a 14-day timeframe is required between their approval of a spending plan and the date when residents step into the voting booth.
“We would already be into August with the referendum,” Wright said, later saying the timing of the budget approval process is not a concern.
In other business, the school board approved the appointment of the fall soccer coaches. Jason Mills and Dawn McLaughlin will again be leading the respective Penquis Valley High School boys and girls teams. Erin Weston will be the middle school girls head coach and Crystal Cail will be the middle school boys head coach.