MINOT — Regional School Unit 16 Superintendent Tina Meserve gave an overview of the 2014-15 budget at Wednesday’s public hearing, saying it’s nearly $750,000 more than this year’s spending plan.
 
She said the $20 million proposal is lower than what the district schools were spending seven years ago before consolidation. And while it is increasing, the effect on local property taxes is estimated to be relatively small, she said.
 
Taxes on a Minot property assessed at $100,000 would go from $1,017 to $1,041, an increase of $23.32.
 

Meserve said factors driving the increase include an estimated $128,000 to cover health insurance increases, $130,000 for tuition for students attending charter schools, $36,000 for two new school buses and $228,000 for salaries for new hires. Another $315,000 is to be set aside to cover salary increases for current employees, an amount Meserve characterized as a “place holder” as evidence the district was negotiating contracts in good faith.

 
Assistant Superintendent Kim Brandt said the new hires were in response to meeting the goals of the district’s strategic plan for maintaining existing programs and achieving other goals.
 
The district has one mechanic to maintain 31 buses, well below the recommended ratio of one mechanic for 17 buses. The budget includes money for a half-time mechanic, a move which officials believe will save money by cutting significantly the need to send buses out for repairs.
 
The district is also having to pick up the cost of a half-time pre-kindergarten teacher, who is being paid with grant funds this year.
 
New hires include a grade four teacher for Poland Community School. Also proposed is increasing the school’s assistant principal position from part time to full time, eliminating a part-time assistant principal position at Whittier Middle School and hiring a full-time teacher/dean to help underachieving students.
 
Also proposed is hiring a half-time special education teacher at Minot Consolidated School and a full-time special education teacher at Poland Regional High School, hiring a half-time gifted and talented teacher and a full-time behavior mentor for the district.
 
The proposed budget also includes $95,000 for a feasibility study on how the district should address overcrowding at Whittier Middle School in Poland. One person commented that modular classrooms should be avoided, chiefly for security reasons.
 
The School Committee is expected to vote on the budget April 28. Voters will do the same May 12. A budget referendum is scheduled for June 10.

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