The Wiscasset School Department’s 2017-2018 budget is a 5.09 percent increase from the current year, but local taxpayers’ share of the budget will not go up, school officials said. The Wiscasset School Committee approved the $9.45 million budget in a 4-1 vote Thursday, April 27.
With a projected increase in state funds and tuition revenue in 2017-2018, and the use of surplus, the local share of the overall budget will remain the same at $6,028,449.
School committee member Glen Craig cast the only opposing vote to the budget, due to the inclusion of the first-year payment of the school’s proposed energy contract in the facilities and maintenance category.
While the school committee unanimously authorized the execution of the $1.75 million contract for energy-efficient improvements to school buildings on two separate occasions, the Wiscasset Board of Selectmen’s formal objection to the contract prevented the school department from securing financing.
The school energy project will go to voters at the annual town meeting by referendum in June. The projected first-year payment of $69,500 on a 16-year lease-purchase agreement for the project is included in the school department’s 2017-2018 budget.
Craig questioned the inclusion of those funds as a line item in the budget, asking what would happen if voters rejected the project in June. He also questioned why the funds were not going to be presented as a separate warrant article at the May budget meeting.
In previous years, the school committee presented funds for playground upgrades and a proposed science, technology, engineering, and mathematics lab as separate warrant articles. Craig said not presenting the funds for the energy project as a separate warrant article was a change in practice for the school committee.
The conversation was a continuation of concerns Craig expressed at previous budget workshops.
Committee Chair Michael Dunn said the funds for the project were included in the budget in anticipation of the project’s approval.
With repairs and maintenance needed at school buildings, the $69,500 would be needed for facilities maintenance whether the energy project is approved or not, school committee members said.
Craig continued to voice his objections until school committee member Eugene Stover asked to move the question to a vote. The school committee voted on each individual category of the overall budget. Craig voted against the facilities maintenance category and the total budget.
The budget that will go to voters in an open meeting in May and again by referendum in June is the third version of the budget since it was first presented in March. The initial budget was up by $599,879.25 or 6.67 percent.
With increases in health insurance premiums and retirement contributions lower than initially projected, the elimination of an additional pre-kindergarten teacher, and a reduction in contingency, the initial proposal was reduced.
The approved budget of $9,453,546 is an increase of $458,270 or 5.09 percent from the current year. Increases in salaries and benefits composed the bulk of the budget increase, Superintendent Heather Wilmot has said. The school will use its surplus of $472,736 to offset the budget increase.
The Legislature continues to debate proposed changes to E.D. 279, the state funding formula for education that determines subsidy, but the school department has received no indication that the subsidy figure for 2017-2018 will change, Wilmot said.
The school department’s annual open budget meeting, where voters will have the final say on the budget, will take place at Wiscasset Middle High at 6 p.m., Monday, May 15.