JAY — The Regional School Unit 73 board of directors made last-minute changes Thursday night before approving a $19.6 million budget for 2019-20.

The budget is up $762,853, or almost 4.1 percent, from current spending, including $195,000 added for a contingency fund.

The board voted to remove $28,000 from the proposed budget, money that would have covered the cost of gifting Chromebook laptop computers to this year’s seniors at Spruce Mountain High School.

Board member Denise Rodzen said she thought it was premature to adopt the budget.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” she said.

Board member Shari Ouellette agreed, saying budget cuts were discussed for the first time at last week’s meeting.

Board member Tammy Frost asked for a brief overview of changes in the budget.

Interim Superintendent Bob Webster said the proposed budget included reductions of:

  • $170,405 from negotiated changes to the loan repayment for the Siemens project;
  • $41,731 from education technician salaries;
  • $36,988 from half of an administrative assistant position at the central office;
  • $12,000 from the audit line; and
  • $7,000 for heating oil.

Webster said the spending plan included an additional $75,000 for another teacher at Spruce Mountain Primary School and $2,579 to cover a change to the health plan.

“We’re under some pressure to act on the budget tonight so the warrants can be posted for the April 4 budget meeting. That drives the referendum,” Webster said, “There’s not much time left.”

The $28,000 for Chromebook computers would have covered the cost of giving the laptops as senior gifts.

“I’m not opposed to the kids getting them,” Rodzen said. “What will be done down the line? This isn’t something you want to start if you can’t continue it.”

Board member Dale Leblanc said seniors this year would get year-old laptops, while this year’s freshmen would get four-year-old laptops when they graduate.

The board voted 7-0 to remove the funding to give laptop computers to seniors. Board member Ann Schwab recused herself from the vote because her son is a senior this year.

In other budgetary matters, board member Phoebe Pike said she has heard some teachers do not want more special education students moving into the district.

“I have a special-needs student,” Pike said. “They deserve an education as much as anyone else. They should be looked at as just kids.”

Schwab said 1 percent of the total budget, the amount Webster suggested should be in contingency, is $195,000. The board voted 5-5 to add that amount to the budget. Chairman Robert Staples voted in favor to break the tie.

The board voted 5-4 to approve the new budget and sign the warrants for the district budget meeting and district referendum, with Pike, Frost, Sara Hughes, Steven Langlin and Schwab in favor. Rodzen, Ouellette, Leblanc and Michael Morrell were opposed.

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