The proposed budget for Regional School Unit 2 includes construction planning, laptops for more students and new staff roles to help students with nonacademic problems.
The RSU 2 school board will vote Thursday night on a $25.4 million budget, which increases spending by 3.8 percent from this school year. The school board is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. at Monmouth Academy.
Superintendent Virgel Hammonds said that when making budget recommendations, his starting point was the district’s students in the district need, rather than what the district can afford. Continuing to cut personnel and programs would make it difficult to provide the sort of education that district leaders envision, he said.
“It’s still meeting the services we need to provide for our constituents while still being reasonable and responsible to the tax base,” Hammonds said.
He said town officials with whom he has discussed the budget called a 3.8 percent increase modest.
RSU 2 consists of Dresden, Farmingdale, Hallowell, Monmouth and Richmond.
To deal with enrollment changes at the elementary level, the budget adds two teachers at Hall-Dale Elementary School and shifts one from Richmond’s Marcia Buker Elementary to Monmouth’s Henry Cottrell Elementary.
Two teaching positions would be added at Richmond’s middle and high schools — one in mathematics and one in foreign language at the high school. Hammonds said data show a need for more help for Richmond students in mathematics. The foreign-language teacher would allow students who have taken advantage of recently expanded language offerings at the middle school to continue their studies in high school.
RSU 2 students also have nonacademic needs that would be addressed by the addition of two new districtwide jobs: a behavior specialist and a family liaison.
The behavior specialist would train teachers to identify triggers, responses and interventions for behavior problems, Hammonds said.
The family liaison would focus largely on truancy. Hammonds said that every year, several students just stop coming to school; and when school staff members are able to find them, they learn about serious problems facing their families, which could relate to economics, relationships or health.
The family liaison would help connect families to state, local and private resources that can help with whatever problems are keeping them from getting the children to school. Not only can that help the students who are back in school, but if enough children return, the cost of the position could be offset by increased state aid because of enrollment.
The budget also includes laptops for ninth- and 10th-grade students and elementary school teachers. All students in grades 6 through 12 would have their own laptops.
It also sets aside $150,000 to pay for initial design work for the future renovation or replacement of Monmouth Middle School. The state recently committed itself to fund a project set up to solve structural, energy, instructional and accessibility problems at the school.
Hammonds’ initial recommendations to the school board’s finance committee would have increased spending by about $1.2 million compared to this year’s, and the committee asked him to reduce that number. The version going to the school board tomorrow includes an increase of $941,574.
Hammonds said the savings could come from moving current staff members into the new roles, which he said would allow RSU 2 to retain staff expertise while meeting new student needs. He said he still has to discuss the potential changes with the employees’ association and the affected employees, and he hopes to finalize those changes by the end of the week.
RSU 2 has projected state funding that is essentially flat, decreasing $22,874 to slightly less than $10.7 million.
Revenue from other sources is likewise projected to remain mostly unchanged.
The amount to be raised in local taxes would rise by $978,699, or 7.9 percent. About $300,000 of that increase is required based on the minimum tax rate set by the state.
The budget once again anticipates raising $100,000 through the work of the Futures Committee, which has hosted fundraisers this year to feed the RSU’s bottom line.
Monmouth school board member Jonathan Hamann said that target seems unrealistically high.
“I’m not convinced we can get there,” he said. “I like the idea of the Futures Committee. I’m just not seeing it being as fruitful.”
The committee has put a lot of time and effort into planning a June 28 golf tournament, he said, but he would like to see it pursue more grants because that could bring in more money than community fundraisers.
Dresden board member Bill Matthews said he thinks the committee can get to $100,000 by being more systemic, making online donations possible and investing in software to create a donors database like the ones private schools have.
“Let’s give it one more year to try to make it much more systemic,” Hammonds said. “You’ve given me the homework of looking at grants and what’s out there.”