June 11, 2012

RSU 18 residents to consider budget increase

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

CHINA -- Town voters will be asked to approve the $33 million Regional School Unit 18 budget and to decide four other ballot questions on Tuesday.

The RSU budget is up about $1 million from the current budget, a 3.3 percent increase, said Superintendent Gary Smith. He said local residents are being asked to pick up a larger share of school expenses because the state share has fallen by about $1.5 million a year in each of the last two years.

The RSU, which covers Belgrade, China, Oakland, Sidney and Rome, has seen local property valuations increase in recent years, while enrollment has decreased. Because the school funding formula is based largely on those two factors, local residents are being asked to pick up a bigger share of the tab, he said.

Smith said this is the first time since the new district formed in 2009 that it has sought a budget increase. The budget is $300,000 less than it was five years ago, he said, noting that he hopes voters approve the budget for the new fiscal year that begins July 1.

"Look at the last two or three years," he said. "We have been fairly responsible about education spending."

On the municipal side, China voters will be asked to decide four ballot questions:

* Question 1 is a repeal of current septic system ordinance that requires those with pre-1998 systems within 250 feet of a body of water to have an inspection every four years. Code Enforcement Officer Scott Pierz said a citizen is seeking a repeal of the ordinance because of the inspection requirement.

* Question 2 asks voters if they want to replace the shoreland septic system program with one that still requires an initial inspection, but would no longer mandate testing every four years if a system is found to be working properly. The initial inspection would have to be conducted by a licensed site evaluator and a state certified inspector so the soils can be evaluated.

* Question 3 asks voters to amend the land-use ordinance with regard to home occupations. Now, there are no standards for those who run home businesses. This would put in place some standards that would require the city to consider things such as possible impacts on the neighborhood, lights, traffic and hours of operation, Pierz said.

* Question 4 revises the definition of home occupation, which would put in place two levels of standards. One would be for those without retail sales and the other would be for businesses that are more similar to typical commercial operations, she said.

Susan Cover -- 621-5643


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