News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, May 11, 2023
School and town budgets both up, the latter by 10%

by David Avery

On Saturday, May 13, voters will face an array of articles on both the town and school warrants. The annual town meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. at Emerson Hall on Court Street.

Costs are up in most areas, so the proposed school budget is up about 8 percent, while the town’s 2024 budget is proposed to increase by close to 10 percent.

Of primary concern on the school side is a request by George Stevens Academy for an additional $1,700 in supplemental tuition per high school student to cover instructional costs. This is the second year in a row that the area high school is making this request of sending towns. The town approved the request last year.

The Castine school board decided to make the appropriation of $30,600 to cover the tuition of 18 students attending GSA a separate warrant article for voters, as it did last year. If approved, the expenditure would raise the increase in the school budget close to 10 percent.

Not every line item in the school budget increased, however. Notably, transportation is down considerably owing largely to the anticipated acquisition of an electric school bus for the town. The cost of the bus is paid for by a federal grant through the Environmental Protection Agency.

The bus has been ordered and will be delivered later this year. It will replace the current fossil-fuel burning vehicle, which will likely be sold or donated.

Technology at Adams School will also cost less, mostly due to the loss of a person in that role. The duties are being spread among others.

The biggest increases are in elementary and secondary education programs.

Taxpayers could see an increase of 6 percent in their tax bills, according to Town Finance Officer Karen Motycka’s annual report. Income from sources other than taxation need to be considered in setting tax rates too; that income, interest, state money, is up, she reports.

Property values in Castine are also up, meaning that the assessed values of homes will likely increase, leading to an increase in tax bills, even if the property tax rate does not increase.

The Witherle Memorial Library is asking for more money this year to add personnel in the Children’s Services Program.

Articles 59 and 60 of the town warrant ask voters to consider how to spend American Rescue Plan Act money. There is about $52,000 at stake. The federal government controls how this money is spent, and the town manager was unsure if these articles would have to be reconsidered due to changing rules from Washington, D.C.

One article asks voters to spend some money on a grant writer, and the other asks them to spend it on sidewalks.