Special meeting held at Island Falls Municipal Building
ISLAND FALLS, Maine — The RSU 50 board approved a $9.6 million budget for school year 2016-17 at a special meeting April 27, 2016 at the Island Falls Municipal Building.
As presented, the proposed budget for next year is $9,619,445, which represents an increase in spending of $140,766 (1.49 percent) from last year. The district will receive $4,890,664 from the state, which is an increase of $17,632.
However, in order to receive those state funds, the district must contribute the required local share in the amount of $2,551,448, which is an increase of $52,165.
Because the district is spending more than the state says it should be to provide Essential Programs and Services (EPS), the district must also raise additional local dollars to balance the budget. That amount for next year will be $1,291,322, which is up $70,969 from 2015-16.
“There were folks there that thought we should reduce the budget further, due to the decline in enrollment and wanted us to ‘think outside the box,’” said interim Superintendent Mike Hammer. “However they were the same ones that didn’t want us to consolidate schools to save some serious money for the communities.”
Some of the driving factors for the increased budget are rises in teachers’ salaries and benefits; a jump in contracted special education services; a need to take over the expense of the summer school program after grant funds ended; and $50,000 for a curriculum/reading program at the elementary school.
The spending plan features a number of cuts that were made by the board during budget talks.
“There is an early elementary teaching position [eliminated] due to low enrollment,” Hammer explained. “A part-time custodial position was cut, but there is still plenty of coverage. We cut fuel in buildings and transportation.”
One area that has not been decided upon is whether or not to move students from Katahdin Elementary School to Katahdin Middle High School. Hammer suggested last month that moving the students in fifth and sixth grades to the middle/high school as part of a two-stage effort to eventually close KES..
“The board hasn’t decided on whether or not to move students yet,” he said. “There isn’t much cost or saving in just moving 5/6 grade. It can be done regardless.”
The budget goes to a public vote on Tuesday, May 26, at Southern Aroostook Community School, followed by the district referendum in each of the communities that make up RSU 50 on June 14.