RANGELEY – Although roughly 45 citizens passed all 20 articles at Rangeley’s school budget meeting Thursday, there were some questions about spending within the articles.

This year’s budget totals $3,005,213.67, a decrease of .87 percent from last year. With the reduction of revenues, Rangeley residents were asked to contribute 4.7 percent more in local tax dollars toward the budget this year.

“I think they can cut this budget by more money than they have,” resident Jim Carignan said. “I don’t think a 4 or 5 percent raise (for staff) is justified. Times are tough this year.”

School board representative Pamela Ellis pointed out that expenditures were down 1 percent but local taxes have increased due to less state subsidy. She added that health insurance costs for staff increased this year, and noted the school system has no control over the rising insurance prices.

“It’s almost a zero budget,” Ellis said. “We worked hard on keeping this budget really flat.”

Selectman Gary Shaffer asked why the school department was paying for teachers to obtain advanced degrees. He added that this should be the teacher’s responsibility.

“We are educating students and we want the best teachers as we educate,” school board representative Ginny Nuttall responded. “The community has asked the board to provide the best possible education for our children.”

She pointed out that the current teachers’ contract provided for teachers to further their education.

“We feel it’s important to have it in the contract,” Nuttall continued. “It should be an ongoing process. You need to be constantly educating yourself. Education has changed tremendously in the last 10 or 20 years.”

New teachers coming to Rangeley have been asked to obtain a master’s degree within a certain time frame. Selectman Dennis Marquis asked what was in the contract that would keep teachers at the school once they had their master’s.

“It should be looked at under contract negotiations next year,” he pointed out.

Shaffer asked why the budgeted amounts allowed for a doctoral degree for Principal Sharon Connally.

“I understand the expectations you have of our staff,” he said. “I don’t understand how a doctoral degree for our principal is necessary.”

Nuttall said that it was included in Connally’s contract and it has been her choice to continue her education and receive her doctorate. She was complimentary of Connally’s pursuit of higher education and commended the work she had done for the school.

Superintendent Phil Richardson noted Connally serves as principal and curriculum coordinator.

Marquis praised the school for helping send many students on to higher education, but wondered how many of them were staying in college.

“It’s problematic all over the state,” Richardson noted. “Getting on campus for many students becomes tough. They get homesick. One of our goals is to make sure kids leave school with the skills and knowledge to move on to post-secondary education, even if they have to wait a couple of years.”

Residents approved $1,333,438.64 for regular instruction, $367,520.95 for special education, and $296,750.98 for student and staff support. Other approved amounts included $159,195 for system administration; $248,921.28 for school administration; $120,444.46 for transportation and buses; $276,604.88 for facilities maintenance; and $19,000 for adult education with $13,732.21 as the local share.

The school board amended an article at the meeting to take $31,058 in forgiven state penalties for not complying with the school consolidation law and use it to reduce the local allocation. The Maine Legislature passed a bill recently exempting Union 37 (including Rangeley), SAD 12 (Jackman), and Union 60 (Greenville) from the law.

Residents passed the article unanimously.

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