2014-05-09 / Community

School board OKs 2015 school budget

By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — A school budget that proposes an increase of more than $1.7 million from the 2014 budget was approved Monday by the Regional School Unit 21 Board of Directors.

The proposal represents a 4.75 percent increase from fiscal year 2014..

The board of directors approved the approximate $39 million budget for fiscal year 2015.

Per $100,000 of property valuation, the change in property tax in Arundel would be nearly 1 percent, or $14.02, for a total of $1,464. In Kennebunk the increase would be approximately .5 percent, or $8.46 per $100,000 of property valuation, totaling $1,503. In Kennebunkport, residents will see an increase of 2.27 percent, or $17.07, for a total of $770.

Approximately $196,000 was saved at the last minute due to a decrease in projected health insurance costs – the district had planned for a 9.5 percent increase, but what came in was a 2.5 percent increase. The mil rate for each town in the district, however, will increase from 8.07 percent to 8.11, which will play a part in the reduction of state aid next year by about $76,000.

At the first reading of the budget and the subsequent public forum, it was thought that a Kennebunk Elementary School kindergarten teacher would be cut, due to declining enrollment, along with the elimination of three part-time teachers at Kennebunk High School – a science teacher, a computer teacher and an industrial technology teacher.

At Monday’s meeting Superintendent Andrew Dolloff reported that, due to recent enrollment of students at the elementary school, the teaching position would not be cut.

However, three part-time positions at the high school – an industrial technology teacher, a computer teacher and a science teacher – were cut from the budget.

“The cuts are made based on student enrollment in courses. For instance, 94 students (in five classes) have registered for courses in industrial technology for next year and I currently have 1.5 teachers,” said Sue Cressey, principal of Kennebunk High School. “For 94 students, I only need 1.0 teacher. No one wants to make cuts, but it’s totally dependent on numbers.”

Savings gleaned from those eliminations total approximately $77,000, $35,000 of which is from the industrial technology teacher.

New this year is the district’s adoption of 1-to-1 technology for high school students with Google Chrome books – a net cost of between $45,000 and $50,000, said Dolloff.

“We added money into this budget to do 1-to-1 computers. We’re shifting technology to get rid of a teacher,” said board member Diane Robbins. “I really have problems with Chrome books over a teacher, fundamentally. That’s just wrong to me.”

“If we didn’t purchase the 1-to-1 technology we would have to replenish the computers for the teachers at the high school, anyway, which would be about $20,000,” Dolloff said. “And we would have to replenish one of our computer labs at the high school and that’s about $35,000. By going 1-to-1, we avoid those two costs; instead of $100,000, it’s going to be in the $45,000 to $50,000 range.”

The elimination of three part-time positions at the high school will mean 13 students will not be enrolled in woodcraft 1 or 2 because of the teacher count.

“Whenever you cut, there are consequences,” Cressey said.

Kennebunk resident Lionel Menard criticized the budget proportion, as a whole.

After calculating the increase in years past, Menard said, “If we stay at the same rate, we’re going to be at $20 million by 2020. People aren’t getting a 5 percent increase in their pay every year. Frankly, relying on the state to bail us out is not sound fiscal management.”

Said Frank Drigotas, board member: “The people who are yelling at us for not maintaining our facilities are now yelling at us for paying money to maintain our facilities, is that right?”

“If the public has any suggestions on exactly where to cut, I’m all ears. I want to hear it. If there are creative ways to do it, I’m ready,” Drigots said.

At the meeting’s close, the board also established that by July 7, each of the respective building committees due for renovation – Mildred L. Day School, Kennebunkport Consolidated School and Kennebunk High School – should have their reports prepared for the RSU 21 board of directors.

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