News Feature

Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, June 5, 2014
Small crowd OKs $6.9M school budget for Deer Isle-Stonington

by Rich Hewitt

Just a handful of voters showed up last week to act on the $6.9 million CSD school budget.

In the only written ballot during the May 29 meeting, the vote was 10-5 to approve the budget for the 2014-15 school year.

Approval, however, did not come without some questions and criticism of the school system.

Jen Bubar initially questioned why the elementary school did not have a teaching principal and said that, at almost $7 million, the school budget was too high.

“I believe we’re paying way too much per student especially since I don’t believe the kids are coming out with a quality education,” she said.

She said she knew of several young people who had gone through the system and who could not read after they had graduated.

School board member Stephen York had noted that some of the district costs such as special education had been mandated either by the state or federal government and that the district was required to pay those costs.

Duke Shepard said that many of the people voted for the budget for that reason.

“I’d like to tell the state to go pound sand,” he said. “But if it’s mandated, we feel like our hands are tied.”

Bill Shepard noted that 90 percent of the budget is paid for by the towns of Deer Isle and Stonington with very little help from the state, adding, that at the rate the budget was increasing, it would be at about $8.4 million in a decade.

He suggested a restructuring of the budget system and urged the school board to find a way to reduce the costs or at least flat-line the budget

Board chairman Mark Cormier noted that the budget reflected an increase that basically matched the cost of living increase. Superintendent Mark Jenkins said the district was working to reduce costs and personnel in the schools. But, he said, it was a process that would take place over time.

“I want to do this steadily,” he said. “We can shed a lot of staff over time as we change the educational parameters.”

Board member Skip Greenlaw acknowledged that the district spent a lot of money on education, but said the changes that are being made throughout the district will improve student achievement overall and that any inequities that have existed will be addressed.

The budget totaled $6,962,952, an increase of $166,166 or 2.4 percent above the current budget.

That budget will translate into increased assessments for both towns in the CSD. Deer Isle’s share of the budget will be $3,856,917, an increase of $52,961. Stonington will pay $1,920,539, an increase of $39,632.

The budget still faces a validation vote which will be held during the primary elections on June 10.