Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, April 26, 2018
CSD Board reviews first budget draft
by Tevlin Schuetz
School Union 76 Superintendent Christian Elkington presented the CSD Board with a first draft of the 2018-19 budget during a special meeting on April 12.
“Right now we’re looking at a budget that will have the first increase in four years,” Elkington said.
The proposed budget includes an 8 percent overall increase, Elkington said, with the amount to be covered by taxes from the towns rising by 3.5 percent. Proposed expenditures for 2018-19 total $6,784,862, compared to this school year’s approved expenditures totaling $6,252,628.
Elkington reviewed the district’s history regarding school costs, noting that the budget has been reduced by around $700,000 over the past three years. Budget cuts, staff leaving the district and administrative turnover—among other changes—have posed the biggest challenges to education, he said.
Elkington identified the general goals the proposed budget will support: improve academic and behavioral success; improve literacy instruction and academic interventions; increase supervision and evaluation of staff; redevelop the culture of learning; improve supports for students affected by drugs and alcohol; improve maintenance and repair infrastructure; increase and improving on-line learning opportunities and instructional use of technology; and recruit and retain well-trained staff.
Elkington stressed the importance of attracting and keeping talented teachers and staff through competitive pay and benefits. In trying to keep costs down, he and the board have cut staffing during the last couple years, through a strategy of not replacing teachers when they have left in some cases and by eliminating part-time positions when possible and combining those into full-time positions, Elkington explained. An ongoing goal—which employs the combining of positions—is to retool staffing so that more positions are shared, covering kindergarten through 12th grade.
Elkington gave two examples: CSD 13 Head of Schools Lynne Witham is also the Adult Education Director, and for 2018-19, the only position to be cut is a part-time librarian position, which will be replaced by a full-time Intervention Coordinator/Librarian position.
The proposed budget also supports other improvements, Elkington said, by partially funding a school resource officer to be shared by Unions 76 and 93, and by funding technology support for students and staff.
Elkington walked the board through specific increases and decreases across the budget cost centers.
Special education costs at the high school are projected to fall by $5,678, while they will rise at the elementary school by $220,729 to total $894,194. The increase is mostly due to four positions no longer being covered by a local entitlement grant. As a result of past budget cuts, the required maintenance of effort by the school lapsed, Elkington said, so the district no longer receives funding. An unanticipated out-of-district placement for a special education student will cost $72,000, contributing to the increase, Elkington said.
Another increase is due to the district’s share of remuneration for a new Union 76 Board-approved clerical position in the superintendent’s office. The CSD will cover 60 percent, or $21,667, of salary and benefits, Elkington said.
District-wide operations and maintenance will go up by $58,872 to total $190,798, with the largest part of the increase resulting from bumping a 20-hour maintenance position at the high school up to a 40-hour position covering both buildings.
Student transportation costs are projected to rise $29,600 to $352,600, mostly due to out-of-district transportation costs for special education students, Elkington said.
Decreases are projected for the career and technical education cost center (reduced by $66,705 down to $45,000, due to less student participation and a change in the state funding formula) and for curriculum development and instructional staff training at both schools, Elkington said, due to coverage by grant funding.
Elkington upped the proposed balance forward amount from $150,000 for 2017-18 to $210,000 for next year, and he added $100,000 back into the budget as a maintenance reserve for 2018-19, where there had been no maintenance reserve budgeted for the current school year. He said there were no plans for any large-scale work on the buildings, however, pending the results of the strategic planning process, which will determine the future use of the buildings.