FARMINGTON — Directors for RSU 9 grappled to find the best way to cover $1.9 million in staff salaries as it shifts from a July-June fiscal year to a September-August year.

For many years, salaries earned between September and June have been spread out through July and August so staffers have summer paychecks. Adjusting the fiscal year has created a situation in which 14 months’ worth of salaries have to be covered in a 12-month budget.

Business Manager Kris Pottle presented a plan that would spread the $1.9 million shortfall over five years. For the first two years, funds from reserve accounts would be used to pay smaller portions of the shortfall. By then a bond with an expense of $327,000 a year will have been paid off, and the amount to cover the shortfall would increase to $400,000 for each of the next three years as part of the budget.

RSU 9 Director Dennis O’Neil talks about a $1.9 million shortfall going into the 2019-20 budget at Tuesday night’s board meeting in Farmington. Seated next to him are Doug Dunlap and Iris Silverstein, who also represent Farmington. Franklin Journal photo by Nicole Carter

Director Dennis O’Neil of Farmington objected to the five-year plan, saying he believed taking that long could cost the district as much as $300,000. He suggested a three-year period, during which $1 million would be paid at once, and then smaller amounts of $480,000 would be taken from the reserve account in years two and three.

“We looked at a longer plan for two reasons,” Superintendent Tina Meserve said. “First, we want to have the least impact as possible on taxpayers. And second, we want it to be a stable impact because mandatory salaries for teachers will increase and we will have to budget for that as well, starting in 2023.”

Director Craig Stickney agreed with O’Neil and said he would like the board to also consider an option to pay the entire $1.9 million in one year.

“Five is too long,” he said. “We should do it within three years, or just do it all at once. We have to get into compliance, but it’s like a credit card. Paying minimum balances never gets you ahead.”

Pottle explained that a five-year plan wouldn’t force them to take that much time but would allow it. If other options or state funds became available during that time, larger amounts could be applied to retire the total balance more quickly, she said.

Board Chairwoman Cherieann Harrison said the five-year plan assumed that no bonds would be necessary in the final three years, but that couldn’t be guaranteed. She felt three years was feasible but understood the more conservative approach to spread it out over five years.

Many directors said they wanted more options to review before making a decision.

Pottle was directed to work on additional scenarios: two plans that would retire the expense in one year and two plans that would cover the expense over three years. Those additional scenarios will be reviewed at the next meeting.

In other business, Harrison announced the resignation of Director Isaac Raymond of Farmington.


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