ATHENS — Residents gave preliminary approval to a $2.14 million school budget Friday night, one of the final steps in establishing an independent school district after the town withdrew from Madison-based SAD 59 on May 17.

“This is the last major hurdle. There is a lot of work to do before the fall, but setting the budget will help us do that,” said Dan Viles, vice chair of the Athens school board.

The $2,140,372 budget includes $713,329 to be raised by local taxpayers. Last year residents contributed $645,019 in local funds to the Madison-based district.

Viles said that the roughly 10 percent increase in local funds includes some one time expenses that are necessary to establish the new district, such as a school van, which will cost about $18,000, and the cost of hiring a driver.

He also said that like many districts around the state, Athens residents are looking at increased costs to local taxpayers due to changes in state funding and a proposed shift in teacher retirement costs from the state to local districts.

“These are things affecting all districts. We have worked hard to keep the budget in control,” said Viles. He said the school board has relied on estimated costs from SAD 59 and that next year they should have a better idea of what their costs will be.

“We’ve had to plan for a lot of potential costs. Next year we hope will be easier,” he said.

The budget also includes $194,062 for transportation and buses; $1,217,690 for regular instruction including teacher salaries and benefits, classroom supplies and tuition to charter schools; $272,496 for special education and $63,780 for school administration in Athens, including the principal’s salary and a stipend for the school secretary.

Teacher salaries and contracts will carry over from the Madison district, said Viles.

He said that establishing a budget is one of the final steps in creating an independent school district.

For now Athens is a temporary member of Alternative Organizational Structure 94, which includes two other districts, Dexter-based School Administrative District 46 and the Harmony Consolidated School Department, while they pursue full membership. Districts in AOS 94 share a superintendent and business office but maintain their own school boards and budgets. The cost of sharing an administration will be $56,639 for Athens next year, according to the budget.

Earlier in the month the community elected Viles along with Vicky Avery and Alan Linkletter, who will be the board chair, to its board of directors.

A referendum vote is scheduled to take place from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at the town office.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368
[email protected]

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