ROCKLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Schools in the Rockland area could face some changes next year, as Regional School Unit 13 faces a big hole in the budget.

Superintendent Lew Collins says he's proposing a budget that would have the least impact on most classrooms around the district - except for the middle school. His plan would close the Thomaston Middle School and merge it with the Rockland Middle School. Collins told the school board's budget committee that the new budget for FY 14-15 will have to make o$1.7 million through cuts or tax increases.

The plan would also eliminate some administrators-including one of two high school principals -- and ask for $650, 000 more from District taxpayers. The Superintendent and board Finance Committee chairman Don Robishaw told NEWS CENTER that RSU 13 faces the familiar problems: rising costs fewer students and less money from the state. Collins says most other school districts in the state face similar problems, though may not face as big a budget problem as RSU 13.

The new budget isn't the only problem. Over the past several months there have been several other budget issues revealed to the board. They include significant overspending in the food service budget last year, health insurance payments made but not recorded in accounts and a mistake in the district's surplus account that also resulted in overspending from that account. Those problems prompted the board to place the district finance director on administrative leave. A hearing will be held later this month.

There has also been dissension among board members themselves, and between the board and the Superintendent. The board's chairperson has resigned, effective in march, and the Superintendent has resigned, effective Feb. 15.
The board meets later this week, and is expected to hear details of Collins' budget proposal, the decide how to move forward with electing a new chair, finding an interim superintendent and then a permanent superintendent, then moving on the new budget.

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