The school board for Oakland-based Regional School Unit 18 mulled over what to do with potential extra revenue as well as issues brought up at the previous week’s budget workshops at a meeting Wednesday evening at Messalonskee Middle School.

The preliminary proposed budget is $35.96 million, an increase of 3.2 percent over last year’s after subtracting the Day One program, which uses the school district as its fiscal agent but doesn’t cost it anything.

The district is looking at how it would use additional subsidies as the state’s budget changes throughout the legislative session.

The district can offer a warrant article to taxpayers on how to divide up the money. It could be used to reduce local taxation, increase spending or build the undesignated fund balance.

School board member Andrew Cook, of Rome, recommended putting some amount of additional money toward facility work and addressing the nutrition program deficit, and then putting the rest in the undesignated fund balance.

The undesignated fund balance now has $300,000.

“Everything that we get that we’re not expecting needs to go into that fund balance,” said Mary-Anne LaMarre, of Oakland. “We have to look long-term on what’s best for the fiscal health of our district. A fund balance of $300,000 is, in my opinion, very low. I’m not comfortable with that. Banks aren’t comfortable with that.”

Karen Hatch Gagne, of Sidney, said some of the money should go back to the taxpayers.

LaMarre added that she thinks putting the money into the undesignated fund balance is “the right direction for our taxpayers” because it would help the district if it needs to go out for a bond in the future.

Two people in the audience said they would want the money to go back to the taxpayers, but one woman said she would “gladly pay higher taxes for a better school.”

Parents also spoke up about class sizes at the previous budget workshops, asking the administrators to take the needs of each class into account. The district now uses ratio guidelines but also tries to watch the makeup of the classes.

Assistant Superintendent Carl Gartley said he is watching seven classrooms at the elementary level that have a higher number of students.

“There are some teachers who are working very hard to keep a positive learning environment,” he said.

While Gartley said he feels comfortable with having seven classes right now, adding another teacher was something the board could consider.

“It is a tightrope. You’re trying to balance this. It’s a lot of needs,” he said.

Board member Andrew Cook, of Rome, suggested adding a teacher, as did board member Debra McSweeney, of Belgrade.

Gartley said they also are looking at “creative” ways to address staffing at the high school, where class sizes are shrinking, but the district also has to balance staffing such things as Advanced Placement courses.

The board also discussed issues raised by the state fire marshal’s office. Richard McCarthy, the assistant fire marshal, said the district has to present to the office plans of action to solve the problems within reasonable time frames.

The district expects to submit an action plan to the fire marshal’s office by the end of May.

There is $25,000 in the budget to hire a professional to work with the facilities committee, as well as money from revolving loan funds to complete some of the more expensive work.

“This is an area where we do not fund to what the state averages at,” Superintendent Gary Smith said. “It’s been an area where I’ve balanced the budget. … These buildings are old and getting older.”

The board discussed putting additional subsidy money toward facilities work and will look at the issue again when Smith brings back a dollar figure for the larger projects at the next meeting.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour


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