Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, August 27, 2015
CSD budget passes easily at district meeting
Validation vote August 31
by Tevlin Schuetz
The $6,513,612 budget proposed by the CSD Board was approved in a series of voice votes during a relatively quiet meeting on August 24.
The approved budget amount is composed of expenditures totaling $6,483,612 (reflecting a number of cuts—primarily to vacant staff positions, as well as the addition of $13,612 for junior varsity and B sports teams) and an appropriation of $30,000 to the facility reserve maintenance account, a line item that must be raised from taxes. Except for clerical corrections to one warrant article, no changes were made to any budget expenditure items.
The adult education article for $32,187 also passed in a voice vote.
Maine State Representative Walter Kumiega was the only nomination for moderator, and he was quickly voted in place by a single ballot cast by Deer Isle resident Hubert Billings before being sworn in.
Just over 100 Island residents were present—about half the attendance of the last district meeting on August 4—and while no dollar amounts were changed, some items prompted discussion during the hour-and-a-half meeting.
Former teacher and Deer Isle resident Michael Wood voiced objection to the added funding to extracurricular education for sports teams, stating, “I respectfully question that, given that we’re cutting so many teaching positions. It’s a matter of priorities.”
No argument was offered to Wood’s statement, however, and the article passed.
Stonington resident Leslie Johnson asked where funding earmarked for the unfilled elementary school principal position would go if no one is found for the vacancy. Superintendent Mark Jenkins announced that a suitable candidate for the position has been interviewed and awaits board approval, but theoretically if the position is not occupied, the money would go into the carry-forward for the next school year.
School transportation costs also raised questions. Stonington resident Bill Shepard inquired about mileage overage costs to the school system. Jenkins explained the contractual arrangement with Andrea Brown, LLC, provides a “window” of mileage; the school system must make additional payments if it uses more than the allotted mileage, and it receives a rebate if usage falls below the window. Stonington Selectman Donna Brewer followed up with a suggestion that parents could drop their kids off at central locations where buses could pick them up, and this would reduce transportation costs by shortening the distances buses must drive to retrieve students. CSD Board Co-chairman Stephen York said he is on the three-person busing committee for School Union 76 and encouraged people with suggestions or concerns to contact him.
Article 16, which outlines additional funds to be raised from local taxes, included figures that were erroneous, and Kumiega read the correct figures when he reviewed the article. The district’s legal counsel, attorney Greg Im of Drummond Woodsum, assured those present of the procedural legitimacy of the correction, and Jenkins added that the updated information will be posted for the validation vote. The article passed in a 78-26 written ballot vote, as required by law.
The most discussion resulted from Article 21, authorizing the district to spend $45,000 from the technology reserve account. Stonington Selectman Evelyn Duncan had suggested that the authorization be refused out of concern that the district might spend the money when it would be better served by keeping it in the account. Jenkins explained, however, that the funds are to be used for upgrades to computers this year, and the amount has been worked into the district’s revenue formula, so to refrain from spending the funds would result in a $45,000 loss of revenue, which would add to the towns’ tax burden.
“If it stays in the bank… we would have to find some other way to make up for a revenue shortfall,” he said, adding that money would need to be reallocated from another budget area.
Duncan later acknowledged that each town would pay a slight amount more in taxes as a result of withholding authorization, and Stonington resident Doug Johnson noted the “budget is not going to sink or swim on $45,000.” After Stonington Town Manager Kathleen Billings explained the school district would be required to call a public meeting to seek permission to spend the money, the warrant article was approved in a voice vote.
Kumiega was cautious in bringing the meeting to a close, asking Jenkins and Im directly, “Are you satisfied that we have everything covered?” before allowing a motion for adjournment to be made. Upon hearing their shared affirmation, York said, “I move that we adjourn this very civil, wonderful meeting.”
The budget approved on August 24 will head to the polls for validation by residents of both towns on August 31 and could bring the process to an end if passed. It is the fourth budget submitted to voters by the CSD school leadership in a process that began in early June and has been fraught with difficulty and disagreement. The third version of the budget brought before the towns was limited to $6,500,000, but Island residents added $312,113 during an August 4 district meeting to bring back a number of teaching positions as well as the sports teams the board had decided to cut. This amended budget was soundly rejected, however, in a 468-319 Island-wide vote a week later. The second budget iteration—referred to as a “flat line” or “compromise” budget because, at $6,932,748, it was roughly the same amount as that of the 2014-15 school year—was culled to $6,500,000 at a July 15 district-wide meeting; but the results were nullified and the validation vote canceled because the meeting adjourned before all warrant articles had been addressed, in an error of protocol. The first budget proposal of $7,059,182 was turned down at a June 18 budget meeting, prompting the board’s efforts to draw down school expenditures.
The budget validation vote will take place on Monday, August 31, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. at both town halls.