After a month of workshops that shaved $13,722.96 off the preliminary Wiscasset School Department budget, the school committee finalized its expenditure budget Wednesday, April 29.
In addition to operating expenditures of $8,426,886.02, voters will decide two additional warrant articles – one for the creation of a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics lab at the high school and one to upgrade the playground at the middle school.
A remodeled playground at the Wiscasset Middle School was one of the promises made by the school committee during discussions about closing the primary school. The school committee budgeted $16,000 for playground upgrades in the transition costs for consolidating the primary school with the middle school.
Due to the expense of an energy-absorbing surface beneath playground equipment, required by regulation, the budgeted amount did not cover the installation of new playground equipment and would have only supported “option three,” the demolition of out-of-code equipment and paving of the blacktop – a cost of $0 due to the Wiscasset’s public works department’s willingness to complete the work.
Kim Andersson, of the playground committee, presented three options for the future of the middle school playground. Option two, for $31,712.51, included the installation of a new three-slide climber with the protective surface underneath it. Option one, for $65,692.51, included extending the protective surface to the entire playground area, including the monkey bars and swing set, and bringing the swing set up to code.
The school committee voted 4-1 to add an additional $16,000 to the facilities maintenance line item of the budget to purchase option two for the middle school playground. Committee member Glen Craig voted in opposition due to his support for raising enough money for option one.
Due to the additional amount allocated for the playground, a requested $11,444 to add a weight room to the physical education program at Wiscasset High School was not considered by the school committee.
After intense discussion of the playground, Craig moved to add an additional warrant article to the school’s budget referendum asking voters whether they want to raise an additional $32,000 to pay for playground option one. The motion passed in a 4-1 vote, with Chairman Steve Smith voting in opposition due to budgetary concerns.
Voters will also decide whether to add $100,000 to the school department’s budget to create a STEM lab at Wiscasset High School. Two classes have been added to Wiscasset High School in the hope the STEM lab will pass voter approval – Don’t Get Left in the Dust, a stem lab introduction; and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.
If the STEM lab is approved, Wiscasset students will have the option to learn how to build their own drones, Wiscasset High School Principal Cheri Towle said. The class will be supported by a University of Maine grant, which was arranged by a Wiscasset High School alumnus. The potential class generated high interest among the student body, Towle said, with 26 students already signed up for it.
The final school department operating budget does not include its revenue streams of carry-over, tuition reimbursements, and state subsidy. According to school committee members, the state subsidy is still undetermined and the amount in carry-over will largely depend on actual transition costs.
Currently $150,000 is budgeted for Wiscasset’s transition from a three-school district to a two-school district. The committee hopes the budgeted amount will cover the costs involved in moving out of the primary school, paving at the high school and middle school, repairing and painting the middle school, installing new carpeting at the future superintendent’s office (currently home to the alternative education program), and completing mold remediation recommendations at the middle school.
The Wiscasset School Department’s annual budget meeting, where voters will have the final say on the budget, is scheduled for May 27 at 6 p.m. at the Wiscasset High School library.