RSU9 School District Budget Vote is “No,” the Community Reacts

Eryn Finnegan – Assistant Editor

On Tuesday, Sept. 12th, the proposed Regional School Unit 9 (RSU9) district budget for the 2017-2018 school year was rejected for the third time in a row, much to the relief of many community members in Farmington.

Before the vote, the district was looking at a budget of $32.7 million, over a million dollar cut from the initial proposed budget of $33.9 million.

Part of the community’s relief comes from the potential elimination of funding for the district’s special education programs, a move which is illegal.

According to Scott Erb, a UMF political science professor and member of the school board, “we could have lost federal funding, could have possibly even [been] sued.” Erb is also a father of two children who currently attend school in the RSU9 district.

UMF sophomore Adrienne Chandler, who attended school in the RSU9 district, states that special education classes benefited her and prepared her for higher education.

“I grew up in the Title 1 Special Ed program… without it, I would have been held back so many times” Chandler said. “Without that focused attention and one-on-one time, who knows how many other kids could fall behind.”

If this budget had passed, up to thirty teaching positions could have been cut, including nine full-time positions. Because the number of educators would have decreased, the average class sizes would have increased from eighteen students per teacher to twenty-five.

After school programs and various clubs were also at risk of being cut, such as sports, band, and theatre. According to Erb, this is because “the money for special ed programs and teachers would have had to come from somewhere else, such as those programs.”

Another concern many residents had was an increase in taxes. Leah Brackett, the UMF assistant director of athletics, expressed her sympathy for those with this worry.

“I do believe we need to reach some sort of a compromise,” Brackett said. “People have to be able to pay their bills, but the reality is, while the municipal taxes have gone up, school allocation has not increased.”

According to a graphic made by UMF geology professor Julia Daly, taxpayer contributions to schools would actually go down about $547,000 in 2017 from 2015.

Dawn-Lei Harris-Leyton, a UMF sophomore and mother with two boys in the school district, said, “the impact of these cuts would have been felt throughout the town for years,” adding “if we don’t have the funds, if we can’t have functioning buildings and keep students and teachers here, then we’re just gonna get shut down, and that’s not fair to the students or teachers.”

One of the elements that made this vote noteworthy was the presence of UMF students. Brackett was particularly proud of students for showing up to the vote.

“This is their community too,” Brackett said. “They pay a lot of money to go here, they put money into our businesses, and through this, they can really get a sense of how government works.”

Erb and Harris-Leyton also echoed this sentiment. “This is such a tight-knit community, and the schools really reflect the community,” Erb said.

“If our school system is poor, then people will leave and no one will want to move here,” Harris-Layton said. “That impact would hit UMF for sure; what potential professor would want to move here if they have kids and can’t rely on our school district?”

According to Erb, because this budget was rejected, a new proposal must be drafted and presented for another vote. Erb, Chandler, Brackett and Harris-Leyton all said that this issue needs to be resolved as soon as possible.

“We’ll keep voting, over and over again, until a decision has been made,” said Erb.