By Diana Bowley, Of the NEWS Staff - DEXTER - A Ripley town official on Monday urged SAD 46 directors to re-examine the proposed budget that reflects a 7.8 percent increase.Although directors have not made the spending plan final, the budget committee recommends raising a foundation allocation of $1,952,025, the amount required to get state subsidy, and raising an additional $355,650 solely through district property taxes.
The district is not asking for any more than it did last year, although the budget reflects an increase of $654,000, SAD 46 Superintendent Lester Butler said Monday. That's because the district received more in state subsidy, in revenues, including those received from special education programs, and because of an expected carry forward of $389,000 - money that was not used in the current school year. The district also has $180,000 in capital outlay reserve for a proposed new middle-primary school.
"The balance forward helps to offset the assessment to communities," Butler explained at an informal meeting between municipal and school officials. The more that can be carried over, the less is needed to raise locally, he said.
"We know property taxes have gotten to the breaking point for a lot of people," Ripley Selectmen Doug Thomas said Monday, urging another review of the proposed budget. He said he had to tell a woman who had fallen behind in taxes that the town would be forced to take and sell her property unless she made payment. Normally, Ripley has about 30 liens on property taxes, but this year the town is sending out about 90 liens, he said. "We've got so many people on Social Security and so many older people just struggling to make ends meet," he said.
Ripley had an increase in valuation, so under the proposed spending plan, the town will pay $10,249 more between the foundation allocation of $202,842, the local option of $36,957, and $4,940 in adult education costs. Exeter will see an overall increase of $2,027 and Garland an increase of $7,555.
Because Dexter lost valuation on equipment when Dexter Shoe Co. and Fayscott Co. closed, school costs decreased by about $20,000 for 2004-2005.
Dexter Town Manager Robert Simpson said his town also had tax-acquired properties, but noted that some property owners actually choose to have the town carry their taxes for three years because of the low interest rates, which, in essence, turns the rest of the taxpayers into a lending agency. As for the budget, he said, "I'm very pleased with what I see here."
SAD 46 board Chairman Melvin Johnson said Monday some of the balance forward money also will be used for architect and permit fees when the district moves forward on a plan to address overcrowding at the primary school and the aging condition of the middle school. He said school officials hope to take a new construction project to voters in February. Although no proposal has been adopted, board members are leaning toward the construction of a new combination primary and middle school.
This prompted Dexter Councilor Rick Goodwin to ask, "How many times do we have to reinvent the wheel?" A plethora of schools have been built in the state and New England in the past 15 to 20 years, he said, and he wanted to know if there was a generic set of blueprints, which could be used to save district funds.
Johnson said that whatever site is selected for the proposed new school will call for unique solutions.
The budget also includes the first interest payment in anticipation of voter approval in June of an $800,000 bond to make improvements to parking at the high school, for the purchase of two new boilers for the high school, and to finish the roof over the Tri-County Technical Center. And it includes $50,000 in capital outlay for a portable at the primary school for a classroom and a literacy program.
"We are absolutely out of space at the primary school," Butler said.
Directors are expected to adopt the spending plan that does not add or reduce any staff or programs on April 14. Residents will vote on the proposed budget at a referendum in June.
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