On April 26, Sheepscot Valley Regional School Unit 12 Board of Directors met at the Whitefield School to consider the proposed budget for FY 2012-13.
The board moved to adopt the $25,765,644 budget, which represents a 2.5 percent overall increase from FY 2011-2012. The budget will result in a 4.75 percent increase for all towns except Palermo, which will increase 3.48 percent and Somerville, which will increase 5.29 percent.
Collectively, RSU towns will need to raise $14,369,061 for FY 2012-13, an increase of $636,879, 4.64 percent from FY 2011-’12.
During his presentation, RSU 12 Superintendent Greg Potter emphasized that without debt service, i.e., loan payments, the budget is only .4 percent higher than FY 2011-12. In general, he said, the budget is “quite flat.”
The public will get chance to vote on the budget June 2 at the Windsor School at 10 a.m. After that step, the state-required validation referendum is scheduled for June 12 in all eight RSU 12 towns.
Their message got through, saving the positions from being cut.
Parent Laura Erckhart of Alna appealed to the Board: “When I see [the cuts] of the music teacher to half-time, if my daughter, now a junior, were in 8th grade, she would be going to Lincoln Academy.”
High School student Kyle Schute said that losing WHS music teacher Molly Winchenbach would give the school “less of an edge.”
Students and parents expressed concerns that cuts to the music program would lead to a loss in studetn enrollment.
Winchenbach said that the $18,000 needed to reinstate her job to full-time was a miniscule amount in light of the large budget, and added that she would resign if they reduced her job to part-time.
She has taught at Wiscasset for eight years as the band and chorus director, as well as teaching several electives, she said.
Nicole Viele, a Wiscasset resident, emphasized that she chose Wiscasset High School for her son because he was “very excited about the tech ed program after he shadowed with a student for a day.”
Teacher Robert Cronk, the department head of the technical education program at Wiscasset, said, “We’re a state of people who do things. The tech ed program has been an award winning program at Wiscasset High School for two years. Visit us before you make the cuts. Technology education is a hands-on, minds-on program, everything from computers to screw drivers. The kids need to get this information now.”
In the end, the superintendent said he would find the money to fund the music position.
The RSU will find the funds to reinstate a full tech education position by using funds freed up after veteran teachers retire this spring.
The loans are for the new Chelsea School (a principal amount of $708,280) and renovations to the Windsor School ($379,217). According to the RSU 12 website (www.svrsu.org), the projected interest on all loans through May 2013 is $738,812.
The first principal payment of $504,757 for the Chelsea school loan will be paid out of the state allocation.
In addition, the state’s EPS (Essential Programs and Services) share will decrease by $132,666. This adds up to $637,423 fewer state dollars the RSU has to spend on operational costs. In addition, the RSU will have $429,500 fewer federal dollars to spend on staffing, when funds from the federal Job’s Bill dries up.
The combined impact of fewer state and federal dollars is a net loss to the RSU of $1,066,923.
Three other reasons for the decline in state money, said Potter, are: the drop in the number of students from choice schools, which means a decrease in the average pupils served; a decrease in special education allocation; and an increase to mil rate expectation.
Other cost centers that increased were special education (up 6.71 percent), other instruction (5.01 percent increase), regular instruction (up .76 percent), and student and staff support (up .01 percent).
Although the student and staff support budget increased only .01 percent, details within that cost center show that the items “improvement of instruction” increased by 30.55 percent, and “student assessment” increased by 38.90 percent. This was partially at the expense of “Other student support services” which was reduced $60,398 or 10.65 percent.
Decreases are due in part to using resources more wisely, said Potter. For instance, bus drivers are asked to drive their cars to work and back, instead of driving the buses, which saves the RSU approximately $22,000, said Potter. Getting diesel at the state refueling sites also saves the RSU money, he said.
Superintendent Potter pointed out that, without taking into consideration the debt service, the RSU operations budget has declined over the last three years. In 2010 it was $25.34 million, in 2011 it was $24.12 million; in 2012 it was $23.69 million, and for the proposed FY 2013 the operations budget is $23.85 million. Said Potter, “We’ve been losing state money, and yet we’re still doing a good job.”
In other business, the board passed the Adult Education Proposed Budgets. The towns’ shares total $147,467.