PHILLIPS — The Regional School Unit 58 board of directors approved a $9.28 million budget for fiscal year 2018-19 on Monday night.

According to Superintendent Susan Pratt, the budget is $84,000 less than this fiscal year, which ends on June 30. Although the final costs are lower, the loss of $235,652 in Maine Department of Education subsidies will be transferred to taxpayers. The proposed budget includes both current fixed costs and reductions in staffing levels, which reflect the district’s declining enrollment.

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 29, at Mt. Abram High School, voters can participate in the budget meeting to review the board’s decisions, ask questions and make changes before going to their municipal polls on June 12 to vote the budget total up or down.

Directors hope for a good turnout at the May 29 budget meeting, because the approved dollar totals will be the only items on the June 12 ballot. The district will have to pay approximately $3,000 for a second vote if the first one fails in June. The new fiscal year starts July 1.

The school board, after a dozen meetings to find ways to maintain its educational offerings and extracurricular activities, voted to reinstate the alpine skiing program and hire an educational technician at Kingfield School. Much of the discussion included ways to keep the school district’s offerings affordable for taxpayers in Strong, Kingfield, Phillips and Avon.

The district accepts students from other districts and from unorganized territories, but the Department of Education reimburses the district for tuition. The district also is not required to provide athletic programs, pre-kindergarten or kindergarten classes.

“I want to state publicly that I strongly support Pre-K,” Pratt said. “But we’ve got to get a budget passed.”

Reducing educational offerings was not in the best interests of students, argued several board members. Early childhood education makes a big difference, said Kingfield board member Johanna Prince.

“Having a strong and vibrant Pre-K program is important,” she said. “The money spent early is money well-spent.”

She asked other board members to reconsider the $43,626 cut in the pre-kindergarten program. Currently, the athletics budget is $200,000, and Prince suggested if voters truly valued education over athletics, they might consider dipping into that funding to make up cuts in education. Six directors voted against cutting a Pre-K classroom. Seven directors voted to reduce the program to two locations.

Directors have spent the past two months in several long meetings deliberating all the financial obligations and options in all line items and cost centers. Many expenses, including heating fuel for buildings and buses, can’t be guaranteed.

The board also listened to Tina Brackley, who explained that the district is required legally to have an athletic director to participate in league competitions with other schools. The position is far different from that of a coach. The athletic director does all the scheduling with other league directors, reschedules frequently throughout the year and handles community public relations duties. Brackley will serve as the assistant principal at Mt. Abram High School, and directors agreed to include the athletic director position as a stipend.

Each town’s local share is based on the property valuation calculated by the Maine Department of Revenue. The total local share increase of $356,243 is 10.03 percent more than last year’s $3.9 million local share. After calculating anticipated revenues and expenses, the directors determined the proposed share and increases for each town:

• Phillips, $99,228 (11.62 percent);

• Strong, $104,200 (11.87 percent);

• Kingfield, $105,387 (7.55 percent); and

• Avon, $47,428 (11.24 percent).


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