Mason Labonte is now an honorary member of the Regional School Unit 73 board of directors. In this file photo from October, 2019, he invites directors to a luncheon put on by his class. Also pictured are Directors Phoebe Pike and Joel Pike. File photo/Livermore Falls Advertiser

JAY — Thursday night, Feb. 25, during a discussion of the proposed 2021-22 budget, Superintendent Scott Albert discussed what it would look like if the current budget was maintained.

About $597,000 would have to be cut from the proposed budget, he said.

“I went through supplies, equipment, repair lines, everything except special education and cut 10%,” Albert said. “Even after that, we’d lose four teachers, two education technicians and a bus monitor just to get us on even ground.

“There may be a year that will have to happen,” he said. “I don’t think this is the year.”

Unlike towns, school districts can only carry over 3% (of unused funds) annually, Albert said. Then after that, the district has three years to spend anything over that, he noted.

Director Michael Morrell, who had asked for the information at the last board meeting thanked Albert and his staff for taking time to gather the information.

It shows just how damaging it would be for the district, Morrell said.

“I think a 0% budget is one of the worst case scenarios we could do for our district,” director Phoebe Pike said. “We know what our towns, our state is going through.

“I’ve seen such a change,” she said. “In literally seven months we went from telling teachers they’re heroes … we’ll do anything for you. Then when the budget rolls around, suddenly people are saying it’s just too much.”

This isn’t just about taxes going up, Pike said.

“It’s about an investment in our children’s future as well as our communities themselves,” she said. “When I hear people saying the budget needs to be cut, I’m extremely concerned. Looking at those numbers, we need to invest in our schools, our school district, our communities because if we don’t, no one else is going to.”

Albert also shared the district’s ED 279 with the directors. It is a report on the state calculation for funding public education Pre-kindergarten to grade 12.

The state allows one education technician for every 316 students at the high school level and one per every 312 students at the middle school level, he said.

“We have quite a few more than that,” Albert said. “For nurses, the state thinks it’s okay to have 800 students per nurse.”

He was hoping, knowing all the extra work nurses are doing this year because of the pandemic they would increase the number of nurses. The state didn’t, he said.

The proposed food service budget for the ensuing school year is up $17,564. $844,665 was budgeted for the current year.

“It’s certainly been a challenge, the last year and a half,” Laura Lorette, the district’s food service director said.

She noted food service was impacted in positive ways. At a previous meeting, she had outlined several small equipment purchases made as a result of the school closures.

The district had an excess of non-food items a year ago that Lorette was able to reduce. With COVID-19, everything in distribution, non-food items was severely impacted this year, she said.

Less revenue is being projected, Lorette said.

“We’re serving a third of our student population,” she said. The student learning model, what summer programs will look like and when and if meals will be offered are not known, she noted.

If students aren’t here, it definitely negatively impacts the ability to reach projected numbers, Lorette said.

When asked, she said the proposed budget includes replacing some equipment that hasn’t been updated in a long time. Improving the cooking capacity at the primary and elementary schools would provide more flexibility for staff, she noted.

Spruce Mountain Adult and Community Education Director Robyn Raymond presented a budget $14,671 less than the current $387,939 spending plan.

She noted COVID-19 was a challenge, but getting creative allowed some programs to run.

Seeing community support is nice, Raymond said. Adult education wasn’t able to make the money it had hoped to, she noted, adding there’s no opportunity for growth in this budget.

An additional $1,000 is being asked for from Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls as a long term investment, Robyn said.

Director Joel Pike noted the adult education budget is the only one going down.

“For me, I look at everything that’s going on in our community. This is probably one of the best investments we can be doing, outside of kids that we can be doing in the schools,” he said. He asked if changes in offerings or staff were being considered.

“We’re in the red, weren’t able to offset the budget,” Raymond replied. Workforce trainings or classes that could be charged for wasn’t happening this year, she said. “I have to make my classes so successful that they offset those costs. With everything going on at the mill, I can’t go to the towns.”

Adult education has one of the bigger impacts in the community, Pike said. He wanted to be sure the district wasn’t limiting itself on what it could do in adult education.

On March 11, with a weather date of March 18, the directors will finalize the budget and the amounts each town needs to contribute will be shared. The meeting will be 6 p.m. at the Spruce Mountain Middle School. Attendance is limited to 50 and the meeting will be available via Zoom.

In other business, Chair Robert Staples made Mason Labonte an honorary member of the board. Labonte is a seventh grade student at Spruce Mountain Middle School. He lives in Livermore.

Labonte attended the meeting via Zoom and his mother, high school social worker Kristy Labonte presented him with a certificate. Mason has regularly attended board meetings for quite some time.

“Mason, that is only good until you become a junior when you can actually apply and become a school board member,” Staples said.

Comments are not available on this story.