PHILLIPS — Roger Lebreux, a principal in the Runyon, Kersteen and Ouellette accounting firm, presented the School Administrative District 58 directors with his overview of the recent year’s budget.

Last year’s budget, which was approved by voters in Strong, Avon, Kingfield and Phillips, was $9.1 million — but the audit report showed that the district spent $8.7 million, he said.

Some cost centers went over budget, while others went under budget, he said. Those results didn’t mean the district spent exactly what had been budgeted in each category.

“It wasn’t all luck,” he said. “You had overages, but you were allowed to transfer money to cover those costs.”

Lower costs for electricity and wood pellets contributed to the significant reduction of $97,000 in the facilities and maintenance departments.

Managing the annual budget requires a fine balance, he told board members. Staff salaries and insurance costs change, depending on the number of new employees and retiring staff. District revenues also vary annually, largely because of the number of students who pay tuition to attend district schools and the outside funding for the variety of required support services.

After all cost centers are decided, the board determines how much to transfer to offset the cost of the coming year’s cost for taxpayers. The board assigned $573,000 from the fund balance last year to offset taxpayers’ costs for the 2015-16 budget.

“At this point, I tell you that was an aggressive move — but luckily, you didn’t draw down the fund balance nearly that much,” he said.

Transferring too much money leaves the district in a precarious position in case of an unexpected financial emergency. Not transferring enough presents a different problem.

“State law says you can’t have more than 3 percent of your budget (in the fund balance),” Lebreux said. “The reward for building a fund balance is (the state) taking away your subsidies.”

Smaller school districts, such as RSU 58, can’t segregate some of the day-to-day requirements in the administrative office by hiring more employees. To add to the stress, the district’s superintendent and two full-time office staff members, business manager Luci Milewski and secretary Cynthia Dixon, resigned before the 2016 school year started. Newly hired Superintendent Susan Pratt hired Alison Gamache as the new business manager and Tiki White as administrative assistant, replacing Dixon.

Pratt asked board members to review methods she had presented at the December meeting regarding current Title I funding. The board had approved $84,000 in last year’s budget for supporting the program, but district received half of that in funding. The remaining money has come out of general funds.

She suggested having one full-time Title 1 teacher and creating a second position for an interventionist, who would have the same skills, but be available to the entire district. The board unanimously approved her recommendation.

Lisa Brackley was hired as the Mt. Abram High School secretary. Stephanie Cheesebrough will be the new educational technician in the Strong Elementary School.

In other business, Amanda Bowen has been named the district’s Employee of the Month. Pratt said Bowen consistently goes “above and beyond” in pulling together school schedules for the middle-level grades and providing support in special education services. 

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