School committee

Wiscasset schools eye flat local assessment; graduation at speedway

Fri, 04/15/2022 - 10:00am

Spending is eyed to be up for 2022-23 at Wiscasset School Department, but taxpayers’ education tab is not. Finance Manager Cathy Coffey told the school committee April 14, to keep the local assessment flat with this year’s, the draft budget proposes using $797,217 of the fund balance.

Also proposed is tapping the fund balance for the other $522,000 needed to complete Wiscasset Elementary School’s handicapped-accessible elevator after a $346,000 state grant, Coffey said. This will still leave half a million dollars in the fund balance, not counting whatever increase it sees by the end of this fiscal year, she added.

State subsidy is down $66,554 due to fewer students, among other factors as the state’s funding formula changed, Coffey and Superintendent of Schools Terry Wood said. “The good news is, we’re getting more this year than what we budgeted,” which will aid the fund balance, Coffey said. “That eases the pain a little.”

Spending is up 2.57% or $234,000, mostly of it in salaries and benefits; health insurance is up 7.94%, “a pretty significant increase,” Coffey explained.

Responding to committee member Michelle Blagdon’s question about the business office’s “big jump” from $84,426 to a would-be $137,588, Coffey said she is asking to add a part-time job to that budget. She said in her six months as manager, she has found it is a lot of fixing. “In my professional opinion, it’s not a job for one person. You just can’t do it all and things don’t get done and it starts to snowball and get worse.”

“That’s understandable,” Blagdon said of the request.

Wiscasset Middle High School Principal Charles Lomonte said he plans to spend $8,000 in 2022-23 toward the school’s next accreditation with New England Association of Schools and Colleges. In connection with a past renewal, school officials explained no funding hinged on it but it can help graduates get into competitive colleges and it gives a school an objective look at its programs. April 14, participants eyed maybe budgeting $15,000 in 2023-24 and again in 2024-25 for the rest of the cost instead of $30,000 in 2024-25.

Lomonte said he feels reaccreditation is important “to the future of this district and the school.” Most high schools are accredited, he said.

Transportation and Maintenance Director John Merry has budgeted a 10% hike in repair, due to rising costs for parts. He was still working to project fuel costs. They are up and he is not finding locked-in prices, he said. Coffey said plans call for seeking a $50,000 reserve account for fuel.

Later April 14, Lomonte announced graduation will be at Wiscasset Speedway for a third year. He went by a vote of the seniors, he said in the meeting and in a phone interview April 12. Graduation is June 9, rain date June 10. The post-ceremony car parade and fireworks are also planned again. Prom is May 21 at The Morris Farm.

Wood said WMHS guidance secretary Marion Mundy is retiring and WMHS health education teacher Elizabeth Hemdal has resigned. The committee raised substitutes’ hourly pay from $13 to $14 for secretary; from $16 to $17, custodian; from $20 to $22, bus driver; and from $14 to $15, van driver; and nodded a May 28 whitewater rafting trip for about 15 seniors and five chaperones; fundraising is still underway. The trip is besides the Funtown one the alumni association is sponsoring, Lomonte said.

Lomonte said students Cory Ricker and Myra Pekich will attend Cohen Leadership Institute in June; and, in a Skills USA competition, D’Nisha Dawkins earned a silver medal in wedding cakes, Payton Blagdon a silver in cabinetmaking, Conner Robertson a silver in automotive maintenance and light repair, and Jason Caton competed in welding. Taking part is an honor, as entrants are the best high school students in the state in those subjects, Lomonte explained in his written update to the committee.

Lomonte said to contact him if interested in being a host family for a student from Ukraine or one from Poland. 

The committee meets next on May 10 in the WMHS library.

Vice Chair Jason Putnam confirmed April 15, still to come on the budget are any more talks, then a meeting where residents vote on cost centers, and then the June 14 final vote at the polls.