An online public hearing on the proposed Gardiner-area school district budget has been set for 6 p.m. July 7, a week before the referendum vote.

The virtual meeting will replace, for this year, the traditional districtwide meeting at the Gardiner Area High School. The change is in deference to the limits imposed on public gatherings because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’ve been expecting an executive order from the governor for the budget validation for a month,” district Superintendent Patricia Hopkins said recently.

That order was issued June 3.

Executive orders by Gov. Janet Mills and public health directives to slow the spread of the highly contagious and potentially deadly virus have caused public bodies like the Gardiner-area school board to adjust their schedules and find alternative ways to hold public meetings to avoid in-person interactions.

Because the districtwide meeting is typically conducted in an open meeting format, there’s no way to tell how many people would attend.

Andrea Disch, the district’s business manager, said the 50-person limit poses challenges for an open meeting setting.  If more voters showed up than physical distancing requirements allow, voters would be turned away, and that would invalidate the meeting.

Hopkins said the presentation at the virtual meeting would probably be a PowerPoint presentation, and members of the public will have the opportunity to call or send email to ask questions.

The SAD 11 budget vote is scheduled to coincide with the July 14 state primary election.

The warrant was approved by the school board at a special meeting on Tuesday.

When residents in the district, which encompasses Gardiner, Randolph, Pittston and West Gardiner, vote, they will see a different format from what they usually see. Rather than one question, voters will see a series of articles outlining the proposed spending for instruction, student and staff support, administration, transportation, maintenance and other expenditures.

After discussions by the full school board and the board’s Finance Committee, the proposed spending plan includes three additional positions, a social worker for the elementary grades and one coach each for literacy and mathematics.

The district’s total operating allocation is $21,969,171.51.

District officials are seeking to raise nearly $7.5 million from property taxes in its four communities broken down this way:

• Gardiner: $2,793,606.34

• Pittston: $1,623,730.00

• Randolph: $711,523.66

• West Gardiner: $2,364,156.34

In addition, district officials are asking to raise and appropriate $252,154 for the school nutrition program and $2,229,267.01 in local additional funds above the state’s essential programs and services model to pay the costs of supporting four community schools, additional educational technicians, and transportation, among other things.


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