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Mt. Blue budget heads to voters for third time

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Residents will vote on $33.6 million in proposed expenditures at the district-wide budget meeting on Sept. 5, setting the budget for the third time in advance of a validation referendum on Sept. 12.

The meeting will be held at the Mt. Blue Campus on Tuesday, Sept. 5 at 7 p.m.

Directors approved a proposed $33,637,093 budget on Aug. 14, down nearly $300,000 from the $33.9 million budget approved at the July 25 budget meeting. That budget was not validated at the Aug. 3 referendum, with 1,290 votes cast in favor and 1,429 votes cast in opposition. It was the second time the budget was defeated this year; another, albeit different, $33.9 million budget that predated the district’s receipt of $730,000 in additional state subsidy was rejected on June 13. That first vote also resulted in the approval of a $318,000 bond issue for school building improvements.

The reductions included in the new proposed budget include cutting $165,431 in capital projects that would be covered instead by the previously approved bond.

A half-time American Sign Language teaching position that was added at the July 25 meeting was removed, representing a reduction of $24,970. Some directors supported that position’s retention, noting that the current incoming 8th grade class would be required to take a World Language to graduate. Mt. Blue High School only offers French and Spanish, as well as the popular ASL program. Other directors pointed to the two defeated budgets, however, and an amendment to add the half-time position back into the budget failed by a narrow weighted vote.

The directors also cut 1.5 social worker positions out of the budget; those social workers would have worked with regular instruction students. That leaves half of a new position in the budget to pair with the existing half of a position at the Mt. Blue Middle School.

If approved as presented, the budget would represent a 2.71 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. It would result in more than a 2 percent decrease in local property tax assessments as compared to the previous fiscal year, or $267,444 less. Seven towns would see property tax assessment decreases as a result of the budget and three would see increases.

Specifically, Chesterville would see a $2,973 increase to $939,061; Farmington would see a $108,489 decrease to $4,519,221; Industry would see a $11,345 increase to $819,946; New Sharon would see a $26,670 decrease to $998,329; New Vineyard would see a $4,736 decrease to $700,739; Starks would see a $21,582 increase to $380,275; Temple would see a $21,572 decrease to $418,702; Vienna would see a decrease of $14,242 to $685,518; Weld would see an $7,696 decrease to $462,792; and Wilton would see a $119,939 decrease to $2,769,915.

The validation referendum would be held on Tuesday, Sept. 12. Superintendent Thomas Ward previously said that feedback the district had received from the towns indicated a preference for Tuesday referendum votes, as has been the typical practice in the past. The Aug. 3 vote was on a Thursday.

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