FARMINGTON — Regional School Unit 9 Superintendent Tina Meserve presented the district’s $38.23 million draft budget for 2020-21 via a Zoom video chat Tuesday, May 26. It compares to the $37.73 million budget for fiscal year 2019-20, which ends June 30.

Meserve shared her screen to review 27 slides that provided an overview of the budget’s five goals: support for students, support for current employees through wages and benefits, facility and safety improvements, fiscal responsibility and transparency.

“I always like to talk about our budget in terms of our mission which is really about supporting student achievement and creating those structures that allow us to increase engagement and again, have opportunities for students to learn,” Meserve said.

The 1.4% average projected tax impact across 10 towns would contribute alongside federal, state and grant funding to teacher salary increases, establishing a special education program at Mt. Blue Middle School, adding a part-time superintendent position and updating facilities.

The 6.1% increase in special education funding would raise educational technician hours and benefits in hopes to attract qualified candidates. The budget would also fund a behavior program teacher at the middle school so students could remain on campus for special education rather than commute to Cascade Brook School in Farmington.

“Our goal is to add a program at the middle school so our sixth, seventh and eighth graders, or at least our seventh and eighth grade students are being serviced with their peers at the middle school,” Meserve said.

A total of 10.9% of the budget is devoted to facility maintenance, which includes replacing rusted exterior doors at campuses throughout the district, installing security cameras, repairing vents at Cushing Elementary School, flooring at Cape Cod Hill School and the air automation system at Mt. Blue Middle School.

“Anyone who’s been at the middle school knows how cold it is and how erratic the temperatures are,” Meserve said. “This will solve that problem.”

Several community members voiced their concern about $60,000 supporting a new, part-time superintendent that was originally proposed as a full-time position. Meserve and the board compromised to hire a part-time superintendent in response to COVID-19 related financial challenges.

WG Mallett Elementary School math specialist Vicky Cohen, among others, would rather see that money go toward positions directly involved with students.

“That money could go toward another interventionist,” Cohen said.

The school board will meet Thursday, May 28, for a final vote on the draft budget before it is given to residents of the 10 towns to vote on in June.

Before the community forum, Mount Blue High School held a Zoom ceremony to recognize the top eleven students of the 2020 graduating class: Kahryn Cullenberg (valedictorian), Gabriel Robinson (salutatorian), Garrett Chase, Mazie Gordon, Molly Harmon, Phoebe Haslam, Alena Knox, Ethan McIntosh, Sophia Pires, Evan Stone and Elijah Yeaton.

Graduating senior Edward Hebert was also recognized as Foster Career and Technical Education Center’s student of the year.

Edward Hebert was awarded the Career Technical Student of the Year award during Mt. Blue High School’s Zoom award ceremony. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Zweig Hebert.

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