About 90 voters passed the Regional School Unit 3 budget for fiscal year 2018 with no changes to the Board of Directors' recommendations during a preliminary vote May 24.

The $20.65 million budget is up 1.95 percent from the current year.

In addition to contracted salary and benefit obligations, the $395,000 increase includes approximately $70,000 for one new teaching position to lead garden-based experiential learning programs at Monroe, Morse, Troy and Walker elementary schools; $65,000 for math instructional materials for all elementary schools; and the first yearly payment of $117,490 toward energy-saving renovation projects at Mount View Complex, Troy Central School and Unity School.

Several amendments were proposed but failed. Those were to reduce the $6.18 million regular instruction line by $210,000, which equates to eliminating three teaching positions; to have two full-time principals, one each for Walker Elementary School and Troy Central School rather than one shared principal; and to remove the new garden teacher position.

The budget, if approved by voters at the polls June 13, will increase by $524,443 the local share that must be raised through taxes across all 11 RSU 3 towns, bringing the total to be raised to $1.9 million. The district is projected to receive $10.97 million in state subsidy for fiscal year 2017-2018.

The board points out that since 2008, the amount of education funding required by the state to be raised for education through local taxation, the "minimum mil rate," has increased by $2.51 million, and the state subsidy has decreased by $2.17 million. Over that same time period, the district's budget has increased by only $838,000, or 4 percent.

The budget exceeds the state’s Essential Programs and Services allocation model by $1.59 million, a discrepancy that the board attributes to the way the state calculates the allocation. According to a slideshow by the board that was on display at the meeting, because the formulas for staff, system administration and building operations costs are all based on student count, and transportation cost is based on student density per mile, the EPS formula does not adequately meet the needs of rural school districts, which have many small schools and lower enrollments than urban and suburban districts. Further, the formula underestimates the expenses of special education and fuel.

Most budget line increases were due to salary and benefit obligations. Beyond that, the  $138,350 special education increase to $3.13 million was due to increased costs for out-of-district placements and planned professional development. Transportation costs increased by only $400, including the cost of two new buses, because two administrative positions, director of transportation and director of facilities, were combined into one.

Some budget lines saw decreases. Even with the addition of a middle school cheerleading program, "other instruction," which covers athletics, decreased by $10,030 because a part-time athletic secretary position was eliminated. The student and staff support category decreased by $39,500, due primarily to a decrease in the cost of technology.

The budget is subject to a final referendum vote June 13 in the RSU 3 towns of Brooks, Freedom, Jackson, Knox, Liberty, Monroe, Montville, Thorndike, Troy, Unity and Waldo.