The poor economy has made pay raises hard to come by, and judging by the board of directors’ vote to approve administrative salaries for the coming year, Regional School Unit 20 has not been immune from that reality.

At its regular meeting Oct. 26, the RSU 20 board approved the 2010-2011 administrative salaries as presented by the personnel committee. All of the board members present approved the motion, with the exception of Director Tony Bagley.

Bagley asked RSU 20 Superintendent Bruce Mailloux how the proposed administrative salaries compared to those from the previous year.

“It’s pretty easy to compare them,” said Mailloux. “There are no increases being proposed, with the exception of one [position].”

Mailloux said the one position that did have a proposed increase attached to it did not actually reflect a budgetary increase. That’s because the person serving in that position had an assistant for the previous year, but the assistant’s post was cut from the budget for the current year. The pay increase for that administrator, said Mailloux, was intended to compensate that individual for the extra work they must do in the absence of an assistant.

Director Peggy Andrews noted that when the consolidation of School Administrative Districts 34 and 56 went through just over a year ago, some administrators took salary adjustments, based on that change. The exception was the position that Bagley inquired about, and an adjustment was not made to that salary at that time because of the presence of an assistant to help with the workload.

Mailloux also explained that another full-time position was replacing two half-time positions this year, but he said that change did not bring about a salary increase.

Director Orya Shomron inquired about one position that appeared to reflect a decrease, but Mailloux explained that employee had previously refused health insurance through the district because they were covered under their spouse’s insurance. That meant the employee had a slightly higher salary to make up for the fact that they did not take the insurance benefit. Mailloux said this employee’s spouse had since come to work in RSU 20, and had taken the district insurance. The decrease in pay shown for that employee this year reflects that change.

After directors approved a motion to move the question, the board voted to approve the salaries.

Director Chris Krause, who serves on the personnel committee, praised the district’s administrators for their willingness to work with the district in difficult economic times. Krause said administrators were receptive to the idea of forgoing pay increases, demonstrating that they felt they were part of the situation, as opposed to being removed from it.

“Having been involved in a lot of negotiations, you don’t always see that,” he said.

The board also wrestled with whether or not to approve a one-year, full time mechanic, bus driver and snowplow operator position at a salary of $53,000.

Mailloux explained that this position had been cut from the current year’s budget.

“In retrospect, maybe it was a little bit too quick of a decision than what we should have made,” he said.

Mailloux said he and Transportation Director Mitch Brown had been talking about the workload for bus drivers and mechanics. Mailloux said the district hads a partnership with the Headstart program, and that district mechanics work on their buses for a relatively low price in exchange for using the Headstart buses on occasion. The work on the buses, said Mailloux, brought in about $9,000 in revenue for the district last year.

Another concern, Mailloux said, is that snow plowing season is just around the corner. The plan for this year is for the district to do its own snow plowing using its own vehicles, Mailloux said, as the district purchased an additional plow truck from the city of Belfast last spring.

Overtime has already been a concern for the transportation department, because of ongoing after school programs, and Mailloux said having an additional person on board who can drive buses, repair equipment and plow snow wouldl be a plus. One example Mailloux offered to address staffing needs was Oct. 22, when several bus drivers were out and Brown struggled to get enough drivers to cover all the bus runs.

Mailloux added that because the year is already into late October, the position would not be for the full year, and it would be up for reconsideration during budget talks next spring.

Mailloux said the salary for the position could come from money the district had set aside from the federal Jobs Bill.

Some members of the buildings and grounds committee said that they did not support reinstating the position. Director Joyce Chamberlin said that when Brown came before the committee to discuss the position, he said he could make it through the year without it.

Mailloux said Brown was likely speaking out of frustration, and noted that Brown was the type of person who would find a way to get the work done, regardless of the difficulty involved in doing so.

Bagley, another member of the buildings and grounds committee, said he did not support adding the position, because he felt money from the Jobs Bill should be used to save teaching jobs and other positions that directly affect education. Bagley also expressed concern that the transportation department was falling behind in work that it had planned to do for the Headstart program, not for RSU 20 transportation needs.

“If it’s holding us back from regular job duties, it’s something we need to look at,” Bagley said.

Mailloux said the arrangement with the Headstart program had been a longstanding one, but that the district is not required to continue with it.

With respect to snow plowing, Mailloux said it was important to get the driveways of the schools and bus garages completed between the hours of 3 and 6:30 a.m., and if it was not completed in that time the district faced either a one-hour delay or a cancellation.

After some additional discussion, directors voted 8-4-1 (with Directors Bagley, Chamberlin, Darren Philbrick,and Twyler Webster opposed and Shomron abstaining) to approve reinstating the position for the current year.

In other news, Mailloux informed the board of water damage that was detected in the walls of the Searsport District High School and Middle School library the previous week. Mailloux said Brown went to inspect the condition of the walls and located a large amount of decaying boards within the walls and near the windows. Mailloux said both the architect and the contractor that were involved in renovating the building eight years ago are now involved in discussions regarding possible courses of action, and Mailloux said the insurance company had been brought into those talks, too.

Mailloux said Brown’s initial inspection found that water had been gathering on shelves that separate the colored vinyl along the exterior wall of the building. Judging by the extent of the rust on the metal studs and visible rot in the wood, the leaking has likely been a problem “from day one.”

Mailloux said a mold analysis would be conducted at the school to make sure the air quality had not been affected.

The extent of the damage, said Mailloux, will not be known until after he, Brown and the architect and contractor had met at the building Friday, Oct. 29, and Mailloux agreed to send directors an e-mail outlining the damage prior to the next meeting.

To close the meeting, Mailloux extended thanks to outgoing directors Miles Gray and Matt Small, whose terms had expired.