Edgecomb will vote on school budget separately from town referendum

Thu, 03/16/2023 - 4:45pm

This year’s Edgecomb town meeting will be different than any other. The school budget vote will be a public vote while the municipal budget will be a secret ballot referendum.

For the past two years. selectmen opted for a referendum-style vote in deciding the municipal and school budgets due to the coronavirus. With the pandemic emergency over, selectmen decided to continue with the referendum deciding both the municipal and school warrant questions to attract more voter participation.

But this year’s referendum will include no educational warrant articles. During the March 13 school committee meeting, Superintendent Bob Kahler reported school budget referendums in 2021 and 2022 where allowed only due to a special order granted by Gov. Janet Mills. “We were heading to an invalid budget validation vote so I reached out today to selectmen,” Kahler told the committee. “State law requires an in-person education budget vote, so we will be hiring a moderator and holding our own public meeting.”

School officials are still working on a date and location. In past years, school budget warrant questions included selectmen’s recommendations. On March 16, Kahler told the Boothbay Register, selectmen’s recommendation will be on the school warrant articles. “There are still things I need to research. I’m not sure if the selectmen’s recommendations are required, but they will be on the warrant,” he said.

The committee also responded to one of two questions posed by selectmen regarding school warrant questions. One was for the re-titled student expense fund, formerly known as “contingency.” The article seeks voter authorization to appropriate up to $50,000 from an unassigned fund balance (surplus) placed in the capital fund improvement reserve account and authorizing the school committee to expend amounts from that account as it deemed appropriate. The account would pay for unanticipated expenditures related to traditional student education which may arise during the year. The fund would pay for tuition, transportation, or hiring more staff. The fund would not lapse at the fiscal year’s end. 

“I re-wrote the language from scratch and neglected to include the previous language for select board approval. I honestly forgot, and it will be changed,” Committee Chairman Heather Sinclair said. The second objection pertained to a large increase in the systems administration account. Selectmen told school officials they would not support the article unless it was reduced by $39,000.  On March 16, Kahler told the Boothbay Register he is seeking more information regarding the request.

In other action, the committee tabled 10 policies for adoption: student code of conduct, weapons, violence and safety, student discipline, use of physical restraint, suspension of students, expulsion of students, disciplinary removal of students with disabilities, immunization of students, administration of medication, and child abuse reporting, prevention and education. The committee wanted union feedback prior to ratification.

Principal Tom Landberg reported the after-school program is operating Tuesdays through Thursdays and he would like to expand it to five days per week. “We lack staff and volunteers to do so. It’s a long day, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., for our staff. So we are looking for some parents and grandparents to volunteer,” he said. 

The committee accepted educational technician III Erika Landry’s resignation. She is transferring to the same position at Boothbay Region Elementary School.

The committee meets next on Monday, April 3 at 5 p.m. in the school cafeteria.