After several months of budget workshops, the Wiscasset School Committee unanimously approved a 2016-2017 school budget of $8.99 million at its Thursday, April 28 meeting. The budget is a 6.32 percent increase from the previous year’s budget of $8.42 million.
With health insurance premium increases lower than expected and the school resource officer no longer folded into the budget, the hike in the school budget is lower than previously anticipated, Superintendent Heather Wilmot said.
With revenue factored in, the amount to be raised from taxes for the school department is $6,028,449, a 9.59 percent increase from the 2015-2016 local allocation of $5,500,846.
The budget will go before the town at the annual budget meeting on Wednesday, May 25, before it is voted on at Wiscasset’s annual town meeting by referendum in June.
Salaries and benefits were the driving force behind increases in the budget, Chair Steve Smith said, with a new union contract formalized for support staff and a new union contract pending for teachers.
Increases in salaries for union and non-union employees contributed $292,067 to the $568,390 increase in the 2016-2017 budget, Wilmot said.
Outside of a requested expenditure of $20,125 for improvements to the playground, $7,000 for new technology at the elementary school, new uniforms and soccer goals for the athletic program, and costs associated with expanding the special-education department’s athletic programming, there is little discretionary spending in the budget.
Wiscasset Middle High School Principal Peg Armstrong requested the reversal of a cost-saving move made by the school department the year before, which reduced an alternative-education teacher to part-time. Armstrong requested the position be restored to full-time, because the needs of students are not being met.
The Wiscasset Middle High School position of athletic director and assistant principal was also increased to full-time in the 2016-2017 budget.
The budget is the third to be developed for the Wiscasset School Department following its withdrawal from RSU 12.
In its first year as an independent district in 2014-2015, the Wiscasset School Department operated on a budget of $9,408,062. Due to the closure of the Wiscasset Primary School, the school department was able to reduce the budget by nearly $1 million in 2015-2016.
While an increase from the previous year, the 2016-2017 school budget is a 4.38 percent or $412,786 decrease from the 2014-2015 budget.
In other business, the Wiscasset School Committee voted unanimously to move forward with the next steps involved in entering into an energy-savings performance contract.
The energy-savings performance contract is a financial tool that would enable the school department to make improvements to the elementary school, middle high school, and superintendent’s office. The improvements would be paid for over time through the energy savings associated with the improvements.
The school committee voted to hire Siemens Industry Inc., of Scarborough, to conduct an energy audit of the department’s buildings. After the results of the energy audit are presented, the school committee will find a financial backer for the performance contract and execute the agreement.
If the school committee does not move forward with the contract, the department will be responsible for paying Siemens Industry a $14,000 buyout for the cost of the audit.
If the committee moves forward with the contract, the audit will be incorporated into the overall performance contract. No school department has ever paid for the buyout, Wilmot said.