Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, June 7, 2018
CSD budget passes voter muster
by Tevlin Schuetz
Just under 60 residents of Deer Isle and Stonington gathered in the high school gymnasium to vote on warrant articles for the 2018-19 school district budget on June 4. All proposed articles passed, and the meeting lasted just over an hour.
The budget totals $6,690,467, up 3.72 percent from the current school year’s allocation.
At the request of CSD Board chairman Jane Osborne and School Union 76 Superintendent Chris Elkington, a few articles’ dollar amounts were changed from the floor. The adjustments made were reductions in expenditure in all cases.
Elkington explained that the administration had aimed to limit the overall increase to 3.72 percent, as promised during the last budget development meeting. While dollar amounts in specific cost centers on the budget spreadsheet were accurate, there were errors in the percentage column. When the numbers were finalized and calculations reset, they revealed an actual increase of 3.87 percent, Elkington said. He and the board thus worked to draw the total back down by $7,792, making cuts in two articles: Warrant Article 2 for K-12 regular instruction was reduced by $4,000, and Article 7 for system administration was lowered by $3,792.
The changes to the articles were supported by passing votes from the floor.
Notable areas of increase were K-12 regular instruction (up $175,124 to $2,259,588) and special education (up $277,300 to $1,393,110), which were both affected by rising teacher and support staff salaries and health insurance costs. Also in the case of special education, four support staff positions are no longer supported by local entitlement grants, and two out-of-district student placements added to the bill.
Union 76 administrative costs—and the percentage the CSD covers—rose by $32,487 to $340,205, largely due to hiring additional clerical staff at the superintendent’s office and budgeting for a shared, union-wide school security officer, Elkington said.
While the overall budget rose, there were decreases in some individual cost centers. One was Article 4, which funds career and technical education, which was reduced from $111,705 to $60,000. Elkington explained that there were fewer students slated to participate in the program next year, and the cost of the programming itself has dropped due to increased funding from the state.
Another decrease occurred in facilities operation and maintenance, which was cut by over $40,000 to $700,280 for next year. Elkington explained that Article 17 allocates $100,000 from the maintenance reserve account toward the major project of painting the elementary school, and aside from that, there are no large expenditures planned given that the future of the high school building has yet to be determined, pending the results of the strategic planning process currently under way.
While all other warrant articles passed via voice vote, written ballots were cast for Article 15, which calls for additional local monies to fund the budget. Fifty-four votes affirmed the measure; just three votes were against it. Deer Isle will cover $1,346,113 (67.5 percent) of the $1,994,242 total amount, while Stonington picks up the remaining $648,129.
The school budget is now up for validation through referendum vote, which takes place during statewide elections on Tuesday, June 12. Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at both town halls.