The Regional School Unit 20 Finance Committee voted to forward a 2014-15 budget package totaling more than $35.5 million to the full board of directors for consideration.

The committee met for the purpose of voting on the $35,565,722.35 proposal at the RSU 20 Central Office Tuesday night, April 15.

Finance Committee Chairman Tony Swebilius said the proposal is slightly less than what he had reported at the last regular board meeting on April 8. At that time Swebilius said the across-the-board increase in town assessments could be up by about 8.4 percent and that the overall package showing an increase of 7.8 percent over last year's final budget.

The bottom line figure the committee approved for board consideration Tuesday, said Swebilius, represents a 6.5 percent overall budget increase, with the increase in town assessments coming in at 7.32 percent.

"It's better than we anticipated," he said.

The slightly lower proposal, said Swebilius, resulted from reducing the contingency line by about $81,000 and paring the transportation budget by continuing the single bus run for students living in the former School Administrative District 56 towns. The total savings from those two cost reductions, according to RSU 20 Finance Director Chandra Hodgdon, added up to about $421,000.

RSU 20 Director Caitlin Hill suggested the committee consider hiring a grant writer for the RSU as part of the 2015-16 budget proposal, noting that the city of Belfast has benefited from having a person on staff to take over that role for the municipality.

RSU 20 Superintendent Brian Carpenter said that Assistant Superintendent John McDonald currently writes grants for the district with the help of staff, and that building principals and teachers tend to go after grants on their own as well.

Carpenter said when a district brings a grant writer on board, "you're looking for the big money."

Those types of positions are typically compensated with an hourly rate of pay combined with a percentage of funds the district receives when it is successful in securing a grant.

RSU 20 Director Stephen Hopkins said grant funds can be a big help, but can also leave the district in a funding bind when the money runs out.

"They give you the money to have a program, then they go away and you're stuck with it," he said. "That's the problem I have with grants."

Carpenter concurred with Hopkins comment, adding that the district after-school program, which is grant funded, may have to be reduced in scale if the funds run out and the district is unable to secure another grant.

RSU 20 Director Charlie Grey said it is often easier to secure grants for programs that have proven successful as opposed to programs that have not shown a lot of growth after benefiting from an initial grant.

"It may not be from the same source," added Grey.

The budget will be presented to the full RSU 20 board of directors at the next regular meeting, which is scheduled fro Tuesday, April 22 at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at Belfast Area High School.