School board approves budget without assistant superintendent position

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FARMINGTON – The Regional School Unit 9 board approved a proposed $38.19 million budget Thursday evening, removing a part-time assistant superintendent position that had provoked concern from some community members and staff over the past few weeks. The meeting was conducted via Zoom teleconferencing Thursday evening.

Superintendent Tina Meserve said that while she still believed the position was important to the district and the education of its students, she was concerned that it may have created an issue at the budget vote. She cited the feedback of some staff and community leaders on the part-time position, which would have had a $40,000 impact on the budget. Board members that addressed that issue agreed, in some cases reluctantly, with many saying they believed the position was important for the district but that the uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic made it less tenable. Board directors also pushed back against claims that the position had been added to the budget due to a decision made by administrators, noting that it had been developed through budget committee deliberations.

The $38,186,924 budget would represent a roughly $1.06 million increase over the current fiscal year, or 2.86 percent. Despite the proposed increase in expenditures, the ten towns that make up RSU 9 would see a cumulative decrease in their local assessments to support the district, of $228,992 or 1.69 percent. This is due to increases in the district’s state subsidy allotment, tied to student enrollment, increased funding for cost centers such as system administration and Foster Career and Technical Education Center and additional money relating to the district joining a regional service center last year.

If passed as proposed, the budget would lead to decreases in local assessments in seven towns and increases in the other three. Specifically, with the Adult Education budget calculated in, Chesterville would see a decrease in its local assessment to fund the school district of $47,630 or 4.48 percent; Farmington would see a decrease of $171,886 or 3.57 percent; Industry would see an increase of $4,096 or 0.44 percent; New Sharon would see a decrease of $780 or 0.07 percent; New Vineyard would see an increase of $9,898 or 1.29 percent; Starks would see an increase of $21,596 or 4.49 percent; Temple would see an decrease of $5,123 or 1.19 percent; Vienna would see a decrease of $378 or .05 percent; Weld would see a decrease of $26,222 or 5.28 percent; and Wilton would see a decrease of $12,562 or .46 percent.

Meserve said that she believed the district was fiscally conservative, noting that according to the Maine Department of Education, RSU 9 was 226th out of 258 school districts in terms of per pupil expenditure.

The vote to approve the K-12 budget at $38.1 million passed with 12 directors in favor and Directors Irving Faunce of Wilton, Dennis O’Neil of Farmington and Craig Stickney of Chesterville opposed. Director Jesse Sillanpaa of Industry was not present.

In other business, the board approved the hiring of Jeffrey Brazee to fill the district’s open Technology Director position. Brazee has 19 years of related experience, Meserve said, including as a teacher, a technology instructor and working in a managerial position in technology fields. Brazee was the unanimous choice of a roughly 10-member hiring committee, Meserve said.

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