Early RSU 73 budget figures show slight increase

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JAY — The initial proposal of the 2019 RSU 73 budget is $18,804,544, an increase of $749,907 from this year.

At Thursday’s board of directors meeting, Superintendent Kenneth Healey explained that the proposed budget represents preliminary figures and that he does not yet know how state funding will offset the increase.

Of the budgeted amount, about 3 percent, or $563,391, will be kept in reserve. Healey recommended that $300,000 in debt service be reinvested into school building improvements.

Board member Joel Pike said an increase in the special education budget of $720,642 was the major reason for the increase. This year, the special education budget is $2,529,715. Next year, that would increase to $3,250,357.

“I think as a board we need to understand that’s where the budget change is coming from. It’s right here,” he said.

Special Education Director Tina Collins explained that one of the issues is an increase in tuition costs, given an unusually large number of students transferring into the district who require special services.

Another reason for the budget increase: A proposed behavioral-needs program for students in grades two through five, projected to cost about $183,000.

Collins said principals at Spruce Mountain Elementary and Spruce Mountain Primary schools had identified it as a need.

“The impact isn’t only on special education. It’s  on regular education in classrooms, as well,” Collins said of the services required for special-needs children.

Collins said the program would be staffed with a special education teacher and contracted behavioral support.

“It’s really important to capture them when they’re young,” she said, noting RSU 73’s current behavioral programming starts in sixth grade. “If you don’t get them when they’re young, it’s very difficult to turn those (behavioral) patterns around.”

Transportation Director Ken Vining told the board he has included two new buses in the budget, at a cost of about $100,000 per bus under a five-year lease purchase. One of the district’s buses has 180,000 miles on it, and that bus and another one have rust problems requiring repairs.

In other matters, the board learned that a water leak was discovered Sunday night in one of the upstairs classrooms at Spruce Mountain Middle School. It damaged four rooms before the water could be turned off.

“Sunday night and Monday morning, my crew and I cleaned up what we could,” Vining said.

He credited SMMS teacher Rob Taylor for coming in and alerting the maintenance staff quickly,  preventing what could have been a disaster.

Vining said SERVPRO of Lewiston-Auburn came in and put air dryers and dehumidifiers in the affected rooms. New insulation will have to be installed into the air ducts and carpets will need replacing.

“February vacation is probably when we’ll complete it,” said Vining.

Upcoming school board meetings include:

• Feb. 15: Budget meeting, 6 p.m., Spruce Mountain High School cafeteria, Jay

• Feb. 22: Regular school board meeting, 6 p.m., Cedar Street Conference Room, Livermore Falls

• March 1: Budget meeting, 6 p.m., Spruce Mountain Elementary School gym, Jay

• March 8: Regular school board meeting, 6 p.m., at Spruce Mountain Primary School gym, Livermore

• March 13: Budget meeting, 6 p.m., Spruce Mountain Middle School cafeteria, Jay

• March 15: Board meeting, 6 p.m., Cedar Street Conference Room, Livermore Falls

• March 20: Budget meeting, snow date if needed (location to be determined)

• March 22: Regular meeting, 6 p.m., Cedar Street Conference Room, Livermore Falls

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Spruce Mountain Elementary School Principal Chris Hollingsworth addresses the RSU 73 board of directors Thursday night. (Barry Matulaitis/Sun Journal)

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