FARMINGTON — Several residents addressed Regional School Board 9 directors November 13 about budgetary, bullying and procedural issues they felt required attention.

Bob Millay of Chesterville said, “It was reported there was a $230,000 overdraft in the budget. I want to know what is being done to investigate that.”

In September, Finance and Personnel Committee Chairman Irving Faunce reported an estimated $230,000 in unbudgeted expenditures. At the time, he noted there was a $184,748 buffer to help offest the unbudgeted expenditures because new employees were hired at a lower rate than the employees they replaced.

The committee was charged with developing and implementing a transparent budget and expenditure reporting process, Faunce said in September. He stated monthly budget reports would be made to the full board, which was last done October 7.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Millay also addressed bullying. He said the district bullying policy is not in compliance with state standards.

“I want to make sure there are reports about these issues in the future,” Millay said.

Tiffany Estabrook of Chesterville noted several recent meetings in which she said public notice was not given.

“On November 7 I was here at Mt. Blue High School for a different reason. There was a policy committee meeting being held that had been rescheduled. There was no notice to the public of the meeting change. The last notice for the meeting was on the October 23 agenda for October 30, not for November 7,” Estabrook said.

There was also no public notice of a workshop prior to the board meeting, she said.

Nancy Porter of Farmington said, “It has come to our attention this district has spent $8,000 in attorney fees and there is no report of that. You do understand that we are the public and we will continue to monitor your overspending.”

Board Chairman Cherieann Harrison thanked those who spoke.

“We will look into those issues,” she said. “Just to remind everyone, the best way to get answers is to present questions ahead of time so we can get them to who we need to get them to.”

“At what point in the future can the public expect a report?” Millay asked.

Harrison responded, “Some of the topics have been discussed and presented. We will definitely look into things and as they are researched or as they come up naturally we will be discussing them at board meetings.”

Following the meeting, Meserve addressed these concerns via phone. She said the district was not out of compliance regarding its bullying policy. Schools must report substantiated incidents of bullying and cyberbullying to the Maine Department of Education on an annual basis.  A report of 2017 bullying incidents had been certified and was on file with DOE, Meserve said.

“Meeting agendas are never not posted online at www.mtbluersd.org. They are also sent to all board members, town offices, every district employee and the media,” Meserve said. The most recent agenda was posted and emailed on November 9 and included notice of Tuesday’s workshop.

Regarding legal fees, Meserve said just under $4,000 had been spent in four months. Legal consultations could include contract negotiations, bidding issues, and student or staff issues. Other payments to Drummond Woodsum, the district attorneys, were for board training and consultations, she said.

“It is common and wise to check with legal counsel early and often,” said Meserve.

Meserve reiterated Harrison’s statement and said, “The important thing is that people give us information ahead of time so we can direct questions to the most appropriate person.”

In other matters, Superintendent Tina Meserve reviewed the process for snow day delays and cancellation decisions. Meserve said she considers a recommendation from a meteorologist and consults superintendents of surrounding districts before making a decision.

“It’s a thorough process that starts at 4:30 in the morning. The challenge with the meteorologist is that he does not know what the road crews are dealing with,” Meserve said.

She said if parents are uncomfortable with road conditions, they can make a judgment call and keep their children home.

The board also welcomed returning student representatives Chris Marshall and Hallie Pike, and new representatives Riley Drummond and Olivia Schank. The students have the opportunity to give input during discussions and may vote, although their votes are not counted.

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