Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, May 15, 2014
School board approves $6.96 million budget
by Jessica Brophy
The school board approved a $6.96 million budget for the 2014-15 school year at its monthly meeting May 6.
The budget will go before voters for discussion at a district-wide meeting on Thursday, May 29, at 7 p.m. in the high school gym. On Tuesday, June 10, a ballot referendum will be held on the budget in each town.
The $6,962,952 budget represents a 2.44 percent increase from the current year budget, said Superintendent Mark Jenkins. The 2.44 percent increase, or $166,166, can be attributed in part to the full launch of a special education “Life Skills” program.
The Life Skills program, meant to help students with special needs learn basic social and personal care skills, will be staffed by one full-time special education certified instructor and two education technicians. However, a retirement at the elementary school, and reallocation of other resources, means the level of staffing will remain constant, said Jenkins. Several other line items, including $35,000 for setting up the space for the program, are offset in part by the lack of an out-of-district placement in the special education budget. The program is expected to serve eight students.
Jenkins said the special education program is undergoing a major shift toward being more inclusive and keeping students in regular education classrooms more.
The elementary school’s summer school program funding is also increased, said Jenkins. The program was deemed a success by elementary school principal Mike Benjamin in August 2013, and Jenkins said the goal is to maintain and increase that success.
Other increases included increasing the elementary school assistant principal from .2 to half-time and increasing the Northwest Evaluation Assessment tests all the way to the kindergarten level. This will mean NWEA tests will be standard K-10, which will help school administrators better understand strengths and weaknesses, said Jenkins.
Line items such as healthcare, maintenance and other physical plant costs were also up.
When asked about the increased budget, Jenkins said his goal is to hold budget increases to a minimum as staff and other reductions are done gradually, over time, and through attrition.
“We’re never going to have a $5 million budget again,” said Jenkins. “At least, not without seriously gutting programs. There is room to downsize and room to get more efficient without major conflict.”