Wiscasset school committee

Proposed Wiscasset school budget shows first hike in years

Tue, 05/09/2023 - 7:30am
Wiscasset’s school committee is proposing a $10,308,529, 2023-24 budget, which is up $976,458 from 2022-23. Documents provided estimate a less than $100 tax increase on a $150,000 home.
 
The documents state the school budget has gone many years without an increase. “We are in unprecedented times. Expenses have gone up therefore (the) budget has gone up.” The proposal includes the costs of some jobs the department had been funding with federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER). Budgeting the jobs locally helps avoid a funding cliff when ESSER runs out, according to the documents; and in 2023-24, plans call for the last of the ESSER funds to be spent on facilities and other items that will not have to come from the local budget,  Interim Superintendent of Schools Robert “Bob” England Jr. said.
 
The committee proposes tapping the department’s fund balance – projected to be at $1,657,560 June 30 – for $600,000, compared to a $785,026 tap in 2022-23; as with the changes in ESSER funds’ use, taking less of the fund balance now helps later, according to the documents. “A fund balance can be used as revenue ... This works well until you do not have enough in the fund balance, which will result in increased taxes.”
 
England added in a phone interview, the department will save money as a result of two retirements: Nurse Marilyn Sprague and one of the special education case managers, Brion Controvillas. England said the projected number of middle school students in special education calls for one less case manager and, as for a nurse, instead of making a hire, the department will keep using the telehealth service it introduced this school year, and both schools will still have health aides, England said.
 
Monday night, May 8 at Wiscasset Middle High School and over google meet, the committee nodded the warrant for a 6 p.m. May 17 special town meeting at WMHS, 272 Gardiner Road. Tuesday night, May 9, selectmen were set to approve that warrant.
 
Voters at the special town meeting will consider the budget cost center by cost center; the budget offer that results will go to a final town vote at the polls June 13.
 
The May 17 warrant articles include electing a moderator; seeing what sum the committee will be authorized to spend for total regular instruction, recommended, $3,630,495.13; special education instruction, recommended, $2,363,549; career and technical education, recommended, $0; total other instruction, recommended, $246,892; student and staff support, recommended, $731,791; total system administration, recommended, $528,059; school administration, recommended, $555,296; total transportation and buses, recommended, $669,522; facilities maintenance, recommended, $1,522,925; debt service, recommended, $0; total all other expenditures – other food service transfer, recommended, $60,000; total cost of funding public education from pre-Kindergarten to grade 12 as described in the Essential Programs and Services Funding Act and to see what sum the Town shall raise and assess as the Town’s contribution to the total cost of funding public education from pre-kindergarten to grade 12, total appropriated, $5,968,844.50, total raised, $3,425,058.

written ballot required)

Article 14 requires a written ballot: “To see what sum the Town will be authorized to raise and appropriate in additional local funds for school purposes under the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 20-A, section 15690. The Wiscasset School Committee recommends $2,972,151 in additional local funds, which exceeds the State’s Essential Programs and Services allocation model by $2,912,151 as required to fund the budget recommended by the school Committee ...”

Article 15 summarizes the proposed school budget, recommended, $10,308,529.13. Other warrant articles are for adult education, recommended, $13,000; establishing a school capital reserve fund for capital improvement projects, maintenance of plant, facility upgrades and minor remodeling, emergency repairs, and capital equipment purchases, and to transfer up to $100,000 from undesignated fund balances to that reserve fund, recommended, yes; another $286,890 from the capital reserve fund “and to accept and expend $346,371 of grant proceeds from the State of Maine School Revolving Renovation Fund to construct a handicapped elevator at the Wiscasset Elementary School with a total project cost of $1,185,630, recommended, yes; “expend available funds in the special education reserve fund (current balance is $225,000) to pay unanticipated special education costs during the school year,” recommended, yes; establish a fuel reserve fund “to pay unanticipated fuel costs exceeding amounts budgeted” in transportation and facilities maintenance and transfer up to $50,000 from available fund balances to the fuel reserve fund ...,” recommended, yes; accept and spend “any state, federal, and other grants and receipts (if they) do not require expenditures of local funds not previously appropriated,” recommended, yes.

ArtIcle 22 reads, “In the event that Wiscasset School Department receives more or less state education subsidy than the amount included in its budget, shall the School Committee be authorized to use all or part of the additional state subsidy to increase or decrease expenditures for school purposes in cost center categories approved by the School Committee, increase or decrease the allocation of finances in a reserve fund approved by the School Committee and/or decrease the local cost share expectation, as defined in Title 20-A, section 15671-A (1)(B), for local property taxpayers for funding public education as approved by the School Committee,” recommended, yes.