Voters adopt $19.4 million RSU 3 budget during validation meeting

By Ben Holbrook | May 22, 2014
Photo by: Ben Holbrook Residents in RSU 3 adopted a proposed $19.4 million budget for the 2014-2015 school year during a validation meeting Wednesday, May 21.

Thorndike — Voters in Regional School Unit 3 breezed through a budget validation meeting Wednesday, May 21, without making any adjustments.

District officials proposed a total budget for the 2014-2015 school year of $19,417,500, which represents an increase of 1.03 percent over the 2013-2014 budget.

Assessments across the 11 town district will increase $61,362 or about 0.89 percent. The minimum mill contribution for fiscal year 2015 is expected to increase from 7.69 to 8.1.

Prior to tackling the 20 budget articles, Superintendent Heather Perry gave a brief overview of the budget and noted some of the items that were added and those that were eliminated by board members.

The 2014-2015 budget includes funding for a foreign language software program; increased costs for out-of-district placement for special education students; support for the middle school summer school program; support for The Game Loft and Hactivate after school programs; a library educational technician III; an increase in the superintendent's secretary from six hours a day to seven hours per day; and the addition of a restorative justice program at Troy Central School and Walker Elementary School.

Cuts in the budget include the elimination of the indoor track program at the high school and a part time 504 educational technician III position.

Article 1

Regular Instruction

The school board recommended a total of $5,819,100 for regular instruction. That figure includes $5,555,200 for kindergarten through grade 12; $165,000 for the district's pre-kindergarten program; and $98,900 for the Gifted and Talented program.

During discussion, a resident asked how much the district's pre-kindergarten program is subsidized. Perry said the district has approximately 67 students in the program and RSU 3 receives approximately $6,054 per student.

In total, Perry said the program costs the district $165,000 but receives about $405,000 in state subsidy for a total of $240,000 in revenue to the district.

The budget for regular instruction increased $76,000 from last year due to increases in support for student leadership programs, foreign language software, salaries and costs.

The article was approved without any changes.

Article 2

Special Educational

School board members recommended a total of $2,411,300 for the district's special education program. The total budget for special education increased $39,700 from last year due to the specialized needs of students in the program.

Voters approved Article 2 without making any adjustments.

Article 3

Career and Technical Education Instruction

District officials recommended a budget of $661,761 for 2014-2015. Funding for Article 3 includes costs related to the Waldo County Technical Center.

The proposed budget increased from last year by $59,161 due to the fact the district no longer has any special fund balance to apply as it has in the past two fiscal years.

Residents approved Article 3 without any revisions.

Article 4

Other Instruction

The school board recommended a total of $536,000 for costs related to athletic programs at the middle school and high school, summer school, co-curricular activities and other activities not included in other educational programs.

Voters approved Article 4 without any changes following a question from Kathy Littlefield of Waldo who asked for additional clarification on what other instruction includes. Article 4 decreased $11,300 due to the elimination of the indoor track program at the high school.

Article 5

Student and Staff Support

Officials recommended $1,619,533 for this article, which increased from last year by $68,991 due to adding a library educational technician III and continued funding for phasing in laptops for high school students. The phase-in of laptops is now in year three of a four year program.

Student and staff support includes funding for such services as guidance, health, technology and the school resource officer. It also includes funding staff training and student assessment.

Residents approved Article 5 without any adjustments.

Article 6

System Administration

School board members recommended a total budget of $647,500, which is an increase of $14,600 from last year due to increased costs for health insurance and additional hours for the superintendent's secretary.

The article includes funding in the amount of $94,500 for the board of directors and $553,000 for superintendent and business office.

Voters approved Article 6 as read without any changes.

Article 7

School Administration

The proposed figure totals $1,004,100 for costs related to the administration in each school in the district. It increased $44,200 from last year due to changes in staffing costs and the implementation of the restorative justice program at Troy and Walker.

Residents approved Article 7 as read without any adjustments.

Article 8

Transportation and Buses

District officials recommended a total budget of $1,453,600 for costs related to transporting students to and from school, as well as vocational and special education placements and the purchase of two new buses.

The proposed budget is down $69,900 due to continued savings from moving the district to a single bus run.

Voters approved the article as read.

Article 9

Facilities and Maintenance

The school board recommended a figure of $2,004,400 for costs related to keeping the school buildings open, comfortable and safe. The figure also includes the costs related to building operations, maintenance and custodial services.

As proposed, the budget for facilities and maintenance increased $6,900 from last year due to increases in health insurance.

The article was approved as read without any changes.

Article 10

Debt Service and Other Commitments

School board members recommended $3,210,206 for principal and interest payments on the Mount View Complex. The overall amount is down by $29,852 from last year.

Voters approved the article as read after a question from a resident about whether the district had any commitments beyond the Mount View Complex debt service. Perry responded that the district does not have any other commitments.

Article 11

All Other Expenditures

This article's total amount of $50,000 was unchanged from the 2013-2014 budget, as recommended by the school board.

The funding for the article covers costs associated with the district's school nutrition program.

Residents approved the article as read without any changes.

Article 12

Voters were asked to approve a school district total appropriation of $17,607,305.90 and to raise a total of $6,318,607.50 to fund public education.

According to a PowerPoint presentation by Perry, the district's contribution to the total cost of funding public education from kindergarten to grade 12 as described in the Essential Programs and Services Funding Act is the amount of money determined by state law to be the minimum amount that the district must raise and assess in order to receive the full amount of state dollars.

Voters approved the article as read.

Article 13

Residents were asked to approve a recommended appropriation of $0 for annual payments on debt service previously approved by the district voters for non-state-funded school construction projects, or non-state-funded portions of school construction projects in addition to the funds appropriated as the local share of the District’s contribution to the total cost of funding public education from kindergarten to grade 12.

Residents approved Article 13 as read.

Article 14

Additional Local Funds

Residents were required to vote by secret ballot on appropriating $654,769.10 for additional local funds. That amount would exceed the state's EPS funding formula by $292,239.40. School board members recommended exceeding the state EPS funding formula because the EPS formula does not meet the essential needs of rural school districts with numerous small schools regarding the funding for staff which is based on student count, funding of system administration which is based on student count, funding for building operations which is based on student count, and funding of transportation which is based primarily on student density per mile.

The state EPS allocation for special education underestimates the needs and subsequent cost of providing for students' special needs; it underestimates the market and delivery costs for fuel; the EPS funding allocation assumes that districts will cover the major portion of the costs for co-curricular and athletic student activities; and the EPS formula does not provide sufficient funds for equitable education of students in rural communities that do not have the enrollment population to receive adequate funding.

Residents approved Article 14 by a vote of 64 in favor to 10 opposed.

Article 15

2014-2015 Budget Summary

This article authorizes the school board to spend up to but not to exceed $19,417,500 for the 2014-2015 school year that runs from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015.

Voters approved Article 15 as read with no changes.

Article 16

Expenditure of Grants and Other Receipts

Article 16 authorizes the school board to spend any other sums received from federal or state grants or programs or other sources. The school board recommended a “yes” vote.

Residents approved the article as read.

Article 17

Adult Education Program

This article asked residents to allow RSU 3 to appropriate $123,700 for adult education and to raise $83,000 as the local share. Approval of the article also allows the district to spend any additional, incidental or miscellaneous receipts in the interest of the adult education program.

Voters approved the article as read.

Article 18

Waldo County Technical Center Budget

The school board recommended a “yes” vote on a $1,917,340 for costs related to operating the Waldo County Technical Center.

Residents approved the article as read.

Article 19

Waldo County Technical Center Adult Education Program

Officials recommended a “yes” vote to allow the Waldo County Technical Center to spend up to $39,000 for the Adult Education Programs.

Residents approved Article 19 as read.

Article 20

Troy Roof Project

This article authorizes the school board to spend up to $50,000 from the capital reserve fund for a roof project at Troy Central School.

The meeting adjourned shortly before 8:30 p.m. A district-wide referendum vote is scheduled for Tuesday, June 10. During the referendum, residents will be asked one question, which reads as follows:

“Do you favor approving the Maine School Administrative District No. 3 budget for the upcoming school year that was adopted at the latest District budget meeting?”

A “yes” vote approves the budget and a “no” vote rejects the budget.

 

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Ben Holbrook
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Ben Holbrook is a reporter for The Republican Journal covering general news.

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