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Superintendent discusses budget mistakes at public hearing

By Kendra Caruso | Aug 05, 2020
Source: File photo

Belfast — There was an awkward moment of silence before it became apparent that no members of the public wanted to speak at Regional School Unit 71’s virtual school budget hearing Aug. 4.

The original July 7 public hearing and July 14 referendum vote had to be rescheduled because of an error in Drummond Woodsum’s budget report, Superintendent Mary Alice McLean said.

The law firm made a $5,416,023.05 mistake in developing the referendum questions to be voted on. The figure was originally written as $10,092,756.66, but should have been $15,508,779.71. Had it not been caught, it would have created a large funding gap in this year’s school budget.

“If Question 1 were adopted as written, the RSU would have a significant revenue shortfall for the upcoming school year,” the firm wrote in a press release.

Other questions based on the figure had to be reworked. The law firm will refund the district's payment for developing that version of the referendum.

The budget developed earlier this year contained a 9.5% increase from last year's budget, but as the coronavirus took hold of the community, it became apparent that the district had to cut the budget to provide some relief for the local economy, according to McLean. The district was able to whittle the budget down to about a 0.1% increase.

The district has been approved for extra funding because of the coronavirus, but can only use the money for virus-related resources and expenses, not to offset the budget, the superintendent said. Voting on the school budget will take place Aug. 18.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: John E Marshall | Aug 07, 2020 11:29

Why would RSU 71 hire Drummond-Woodsum from Portland to work on referendum language? Any Belfast attorney could review that language. DW has been profiting to0 long providing unnecessary services to local school districts in Maine. For years MSAD was paying them exorbitant amounts to negotiate contracts with our teachers, transportation crews as well as food service and custodial workers. That included paying legal fees for travel between Portland and Belfast and involved protracted and expensive haggling over non-issues  which delayed agreements fair to our employees and the taxpayers. I am proud to have removed them from the process during my 8 years as Chair of the Negotiating Committee for MSAD 34. How did they reinsert themselves? My guess is through the Maine School Management Association which has been shilling for them for too long.




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