News Feature

The Island
Web exclusive, May 7, 2018
CSD board proposes budget to go to voters
3.72% increase to taxpayers

by Tevlin Schuetz

The CSD Board passed a 2018-19 proposed school budget in a unanimous vote during its regular monthly meeting on May 1.

The budget adds up to $6,698,259, an increase of 6.65 percent or $445,618 over the current year’s total. The amount to be covered by local taxes is $202,490, 3.72 percent higher than the local share for 2017-18.

A school food service budget of $189,371 and an adult education budget of $76,318 were also approved by the board. Food service costs decreased by $4,388 or 2.2 percent, while adult education rose by $8,073 or 11.8 percent.

Union 76 Superintendent Christian Elkington explained that while the overall budget rose more sharply, increased state aid and more revenue from tuition students helped to lessen the blow with respect to the local tax bill.

At the board’s behest, Elkington fine-tuned the school budget during the past week and a half, including placeholder funding for anticipated teaching and support staff raises while negotiations are still under way. The board also decided it should craft a separate warrant article to bring before the voters, allocating the $100,000 maintenance reserve balance toward painting the elementary school, as a one-time expenditure.

During discussion, Elkington noted that school budgets around Hancock County are up 1.5 to 4 percent on average, increases that are larger than usual, he said.

Board Vice Chairman Stephen York emphasized the nature of certain cost centers that can drive increases in the budget.

“There are things we can’t always control,” he said, noting increases of up to 10 percent in healthcare costs for teachers and staff, benefits which are covered in employment contracts.

York also pointed out a recent spike in special education costs—due to an unforeseen out-of-district student placement and associated transportation costs—which the CSD is obligated to cover.

“This is not a luxury. We are required to pay [these costs] by law,” York said.

Elkington factored in additional funds to buffer future shocks from unanticipated out-of-district placements, and the board discussed having a special education reserve account.

“I think it’s a workable budget,” community member Duke Shepard said, adding that people could be expected to become upset if the budget nears the $7 million mark again. “This is as good as we’re going to get,” he said.

Next meeting

The board will hold a public budget informational meeting on Wednesday, May 9, at 5:30 p.m., at the Reach auditorium.