Residents in Van Buren area OK $4.2 million SAD 24 budget
VAN BUREN, Maine — Following some opposition, residents of the three members communities of School Administrative District 24 approved a $4.2 million school budget during the annual budget meeting in Van Buren Thursday night.
Clayton Belanger, a member of the board, acted as the moderator for the budget meeting, during which officials handed printouts of their proposal and an explanation of their reasoning to the dozen or so residents in attendance.
The proposed budget approved by the school board May 9, calls for the communities of Cyr Plantation, Van Buren, and Hamlin to raise a total of $747,724 locally, in order to get full funding support from the state. This amount results in an increase from last year of just over $60,000.
This amount will increase the property taxes of all three communities an average of about .32 percent, with Hamlin’s tax increasing the most.
According to the Superintendent Elaine Boulier, these increases are necessary to receive full funding from the state under the essential programs and services formula. She said that for every dollar raised below the requested amount at the local level, the state would withhold $2.
Article 15 of the budget outlines a safety precaution in the event the Maine Department of Education provides less funding than the school operating budget requires for the next fiscal year beginning July 1, 2018. In that eventuality, the board members recommended that district voters allow them to transfer up to $185,000 from the “Rainy Day Reserve Fund” to make up for the shortcomings.
“The only reason it is in here, is because the state hasn’t come up with the final number,” said board member Anthony Martin.
Opposition was expressed by two individuals who did not agree with giving the board power to withdraw that much money. Dominic Lajoie stated he would much rather the number be in the $50,000 range.
“It’s a big number to be willing to just approve being used without a special meeting,” Lajoie said.
“It is to make plans just in case,” Boulier said. “Chances are we’ll be OK.”
“I find it to be a dangerous precedent, period,” said John Pelletier, a former member of the board.
Pelletier also opposed Article 12 which sought to give the board authorization to use any funds that the district might receive from the state above what is anticipated.
“If they get extra, they can spend it,” Pelletier explained after the meeting Thursday night. “They got more this year, and I don’t know where it went.”
With just Lajoie and Pelletier voting against Article 15, and only Pelletier against Article 12, both measures easily passed.
During the meeting, the board members said they were confident that the budget would be sufficient enough to cover the cost of operation for the schools.
The budget still will need final approval in a validation referendum vote in June.