2017-03-10 / Community

News Briefs

SCHOOL BUDGET – According to Matthew Fadiman, a member of the RSU 21 Board of Education from Kennebunk, who also sits as chairman of the board’s finance committee, the 2017-2018 school budget submitted by Superintendent Katie Hawes has come in at $44.3 million — a 2.93 percent increase over the current year.

However, the affect on tax bills will most likely be greater than that. Fadiman pointed out at the March 6 school board meeting that the new price tag represents the “operational budget” only.

Last year, the board divided out debt service, including bond payments on the $56.5 million school renovation project approved by voters in 2015, in hopes of better reflecting how much of the annual budget increase is tied to new spending. The construction bond payment is due for a $1.33 million hike this coming year.

“Obviously, those two budgets will need to combine into an overall budget for the public vote on June 13,” Fadiman said.

The budget also does not include an anticipated drop in the state subsidy for public education paid to RSU 21.

According to board member Maureen King, of Kennebunkport, that state contribution is slated to drop by 12 percent, or $527,000, under the biennial state budget submitted by Gov. Paul LePage.

However, Hawes said she expects that reduction will get amended by the state legislature, although she urged residents to ensure that action by calling and writing their local representatives.

“That preliminary [subsidy] line is just that, and we should expect a revised number before everything is finalized,” she said. “But let them know $527,000 in cuts will hurt. That’s a lot of money.”

The finance committee was slated to meet March 9 to make any potential edits to Hawes’ proposal before spending it on the full school board.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 6 p.m. on April 12, at Kennebunk Elementary School.

According to RSU Business Manager Bruce “Rudy” Rudolph, health insurance costs for the school district have shot up 10 percent, accounting for $479,000 of the $1.26 million in new spending.

The new budget also includes $668,000 in salary increases, as well as $209,000 in spending on replacement laptops for students, at $269, each, although $102,000 of that will be offset by grants.

Other highlights of new spending include $70,000 for an additional science/ social studies teacher at the Middle School of the Kennebunks, as well as $33,000 to buy two new minivans.

A $153,600 line item to buy two new school buses will actually turn into a profit thanks to a $160,000 state and federal grant.

Also on the savings front, the district expects to save $308,000 by no longer having to pay tuition for middle school and some high school students to attend Thornton Academy.

BUDGET TRANSFER – At their March 6 meeting, members of the RSU 21 Board of Directors voted unanimously to re-allocated nearly $300,000 in surplus revenue.

According to finance committee chairman Matthew Fadiman, the money — $296,017 — is what’s left over from the districts 2015-2016 operational budget, as determined following the annual audit. District policy allows 75 percent of the operating surplus to be put into a capital reserve fund.

The actual $222,012 transfer will have to be approved by voters as part of the annual budget validation vote June 13. The rest rolls into the current operating budget as “carry forward” funds.

SCHOOL TOUR – Selectmen from Arundel, Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, and been invited to join RSU 21 building committee members on the tour of the Kennebunk High School renovation project.

That tour is set for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 22. Because of the involvement of selectmen, the tour is a public meeting under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act, meaning any member of the public may follow along.

SCHOOL DONATION – When RSU 21 officials pared back a 2014 proposed $75 million building renovation bond to the $56.5 million finally accepted by voters in June 2015, a number of things fell by the wayside.

One thing cut were the player benches meant to go with the new tennis courts. However, when the new Kennebunk High School goes online, those benches will be in place, thanks to a $2,200 donation from Joyce and Jack Reetz of Arundel, made in the name of their extended family.

A longtime member of the Kennebunk High School Building Committee, Jack Reetz said in his letter to the school board accompanying the donation that the 10 5-foot-long benches will not only benefit players, but members of the public, including many senior citizens, who use the courts during off hours.

Compiled by Staff Writer Duke Harrington. He can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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