Limestone Select Board approves $4.7 million school budget

1 year ago

LIMESTONE, Maine — After a two-hour discussion, the Limestone Select Board on Wednesday approved a proposed Limestone Community School budget of more than $4.7 million for the 2023-24 school year.

The budget will next face a public vote, the date for which has not yet been set.

The Limestone School Committee requested a total budget of $4,756,393, an increase from last year of $415,304. During a May 10 budget workshop, select board members questioned school leaders extensively about hikes in health insurance, teacher salaries and special education.

“If you look at the whole budget it’s extremely high, but remember, over $700,000 is pass-through money [from] when we broke away from Caribou RSU 39,” Superintendent William Dobbins said. 

A few town residents expressed concern that the Limestone Community School was spending too much money and should cut back. Rising costs make people live within their means, and the school should do the same, said an unidentified resident.

Special education showed the largest budget increase, up nearly $169,000 from $351,108 last year to about $520,000 for 2023-24. The increase was due mainly to outsourcing pre-K children who have severe handicaps to another school, Dobbins said.

Instruction for grades K-12, which includes teacher salaries and health insurance, was proposed at about $1.66 million, an increase of $122,426 from last year. 

Select board members questioned health insurance increases, including the principal’s health insurance which increased to $20,000 from last year’s $11,400. School committee members said Principal Ben Lothrop had a life change, and an employee’s children are included in the school’s contract but a spouse is not.

The school building flow-through funds were increased by $17,488, and electricity costs increased by $30,000, Dobbins said.

Select Board Chairperson Irma LaBreck said the numbers were confusing and not straightforward enough, and used the school technician salary as an example. The school technician salary rose $15,680 from last year to $62,570 for this year’s budget.

Other increases included the following:  technology, proposed at $130,893, up $25,187 from last year; business manager, proposed at $95,690, up $33,034 from last year; operations and maintenance proposed at $552,321, up $23,119; transportation, proposed at $341,827, up $41,785; and school social worker and nurse salaries, each up $2,000 at $44,800 and $43,000, respectively.

 The total additional local funds to be appropriated was proposed at $969,052. 

Infrastructure money was set aside to finish the locker rooms and went into the windows, air handling systems, and the pool, said Chris Durepo, Limestone Select Board member. Durepo didn’t specify costs for these projects.

Other big projects like repairs to the school roof and the gym floors needing to be redone aren’t included in the 2023-2024 school budget.

Following the two-hour workshop, the select board voted 3-2 to pass the proposed budget.