The Regional School Unit 71 Board of Directors on April 2 approved a draft budget for the 2018-19 school year that is down from last year. However, a decrease in state aid will mean a slight increase for most of the district's five towns.

RSU 71 includes Belfast, Belmont, Morrill, Searsmont and Swanville.

The proposed $27,133,224 bottom line is $76,566 less than last year's budget, owing in part to no increase in the district's health insurance costs.

The budget has some new expenses including the addition of an assistant principal position at Belfast Area High School for $129,000, along with a principal payment for energy efficiency upgrades at the high school, Troy Howard Middle School and Capt. Albert Stevens School and interest payments for the ongoing high school renovation totaling $568,518.

The mil rate, a figure set by the state that determines the local share of education costs, is expected to go up from 8.19 to 8.51. RSU 71 Superintendent Paul Knowles described the change as "a significant increase."

As a result, four of five towns would have to pay more this year than last.

Belfast would see an increase of 3.52 percent, Belmont 5.46 percent, Morrill 3.25 percent and Swanville 4.58 percent. Searsmont's share would decrease by 0.05 percent.

The budget will go before voters twice in coming months. A district-wide public budget meeting will be held Monday, May 21. There, voters can make changes to the major cost centers of the budget. The resulting budget will then go to a referendum June 12.