FARMINGTON – Members of the Regional School Unit 9 Board of Directors held a community forum Tuesday night, with Superintendent Christian Elkington presenting an updated budget proposal for the 2022-23 fiscal year.
The $40 million budget represents an increase of $1.23 million, or 3.17%, as compared to the current fiscal year. Tax payers local to the district would raise $13.88 million of the total budget, a 1.36% increase from the current fiscal year.
The budget process has been relatively smooth this year, according to Elkington who is leading his first budget season with RSU 9. Board members have made several minor changes since the initial proposal was presented, including cutting back on a few positions that they collectively, with RSU 9 staff, decided were “excessive.” Several of the positions had been created with the purpose of supporting classrooms that might see an influx of returning homeschoolers next year, but Elkington said the district could fairly easily create the positions again in the future if needed. Board members voted to cut two of those three proposed positions. Each of those positions were budgeted for roughly $65,000 including salary and benefits.
A meeting last week brought some discussion around future architectural fees to address a need of expanding pre-K programming. Federal funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) would help offset some of the costs of that expansion, as well as other plans for structural updates to aging schools in the district. The architectural assessment would help outline a 10-year facilities plan, including items such as aging roofs, boilers and parking lots. An estimated $420,000 debt reduction will also help offset the expected costs associated with building updates and expansions.
RSU 9 is currently in the third round of ESSER funds, which were provided to public schools to help adapt to COVID-19 regulation expectations. Roughly half of the funds from the second round are still available, and only about 10% of the third round of funds have been spent. Elkington estimated roughly $6.5 million is left.
The above adjustments amounted to a roughly $15-17,000 reduction in the overall budget.
“I think the board has been very understanding that with inflation this proposed budget just focuses on maintaining programs. We feel that it’s fair and not extravagant,” Elkington said.
Following April vacation on April 26, board members will decide whether or not to adopt the budget. If adopted, the warrant will be signed on May 3 with a referendum vote on June 14.