HALLOWELL — Regional School Unit 2’s school board got a look at the district’s initial budget draft for the 2021-22 school year Thursday night — and encouraged community members to participate in the planning process.

Donna Seppy, the newest school board member, and board member Jeffrey Pierce said at Thursday night’s Finance Committee meeting how important it is for taxpayers to have an idea of why the budget might increase.

“We have an audience of people that are really worried and really interested,” Seppy said, “so I think we need to do due diligence to say we tried.”

Business Manager Vicki Raymond gave her initial budget presentation to the Finance Committee, noting it would change before it is finalized. The draft she presented Thursday night, with proposed spending of $32.8 million, did not include any principals’ or staff requests.

Pierce and board member Dawn Gallagher both said they didn’t feel comfortable giving input on the spending plan until they knew more about the budget. Gallagher asked if board members could get a draft of the budget a day in advance of upcoming meetings, but Raymond said the board will get it the morning of those gatherings.

Pierce said people in the towns think the school budget should be less, because the students are in the school half the time.

“We are 10 schools around three towns, but they (the state) are looking as if we have 2,000 students in three towns,” Raymond said. “One nurse per 850 students isn’t going to cut it for us. We have 10 schools, one ed tech per 350 students isn’t going to cut it for us. That’s like one ed tech at Hall-Dale (Elementary), which wouldn’t make sense.

We have to go over and above to serve the kids,” she added.

Regional School Unit 2’s initial budget draft, presented Thursday by Business Manager Vicki Raymond. Zoom screenshot

RSU 2 Superintendent Tonya Arnold said staff wages have to increase because they are “working harder and more hours.” She also added that there are more expenses for overtime and requiring more substitute teachers.

Dresden Elementary School Principal Sara Derosby asked if her secretary could be promoted to an administrative secretary, but no other principals requested additional money. Karl Matulis and Rick Amero, principals of Richmond Middle and High School and Monmouth Academy, respectively, said they received most of what they needed supply-wise from the coronavirus relief funds.

Director of Buildings and Grounds Gordon Murray showed the Facility, Transportation and Food Committee his 10-year plan for capital improvements. He said he tries to keep the capital improvement budget less than $268,000 per year, so he has spread the projects out based on what is doable for the budget year.

Gallagher asked if any of the improvements could be done with the coronavirus relief funds, and suggested the district use those to pay for projects. She said doing so could both decrease the budget and push the priority of other projects closer than 10 years.

Board member Jay Brown questioned Murray’s decision to wait a couple of years before improving some of the sports fields, saying students could receive injuries due to poor field drainage.

“The priority for fields may change,” Murray said. “But we are going to have to start dumping money for these fields.”

Gallagher suggested the school board look into the use of bonds, since the interest rate is low. She wondered why the board was not using the CRF money or the Simmons Fund to pay for expenses for athletics.

“We could apply under ESSER 3,” Arnold said. “We haven’t gotten the details yet, just a general description of the types of things emphasized under this round.”

Arnold said closing the gap for remote learners has been heavily emphasized in this round of funding, but they haven’t yet figured out for what ESSER 3 money will be used.

At the Finance Committee meeting, Director of Information Technology John Armentrout said that could include improving broadband. He said Dresden, one of the district’s member towns, has very poor broadband service and around 70 students from there take advantage of the district’s available hot spots.

During the Facility, Transportation and Food Committee meeting, Nutrition Director Chrissy Michaud discussed the impact potential state-level changes could have on school nutrition programs. She said there is a bill in the state Legislature that would require lunch to be at least 30 minutes, and added that some students don’t take advantage of the school-provided meal because of how long lines can get.

Committee members noted that adding 10 minutes to the 20-minute lunch periods could make the end of the school day later, which potentially could have impact on teachers and staff pay for the added time.

“If we lengthen the lunch period without lengthening the school day, then we would have to take time from academics, which have already been impacted enough,” board member Russ Hughes said.

Michaud said the free lunch program has been extended and the district will feed students until June 30. After that, it will become a group effort with Camp Mechuwana in Monmouth and Mid-Coast Hunger Prevention Program in Richmond, Farmingdale and Dresden.

The next finance committee meeting will be March 23 via Zoom and the RSU 2 administrators will present the formal budget draft.


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