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Friday, May 22, 2015 Serving Maine and Lincoln County for over a century. Volume 140 Issue 21


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5/7/2014 2:00:00 PM
Wiscasset School Board Approves $9.4 Million School Budget
By Kathy Onorato

The Wiscasset School Board voted 4-1 May 1 to approve a $9.4 million school budget, which now awaits approval of Wiscasset taxpayers.

Wiscasset Interim Superintendent Wayne Dorr said the budget proposal started at $10.3 million. Over the last several months he and the school board have trimmed over $800,000 from the earlier budget and will seek voter approval for $9,408,062.91 to operate the three Wiscasset schools beginning July 1.

Dorr said Wiscasset can expect $1.289 million in state subsidy and another anticipated $1.2 million in tuition revenue. Tuition revenue could be more, but Dorr said he erred on the side of caution because, until students show up at the schools in September, the tuition student count is not fully known.

The proposed budget less the anticipated revenue means $6.9 million will need to be raised by taxpayers. According to RSU 12 data, Wiscasset's local contribution for FY 2014 was $5,003,033.

Dorr said the board has held eight different workshops on the budget to come up with current numbers. One challenge this budget faces, Dorr said, is Wiscasset is working with no carry over amount, which most school systems have to begin the process.

"This has been an extraordinary experience for me even though I am very experienced," he said.

Wiscasset voters will have a voice on the budget May 14, when residents will have the opportunity to amend any of the school budget's cost centers. The budget approved at the May 14 meeting will become the operational budget beginning July 1.

The budget approval meeting will be held in the Wiscasset High School cafeteria beginning at 6 p.m. on May 14. Babysitting services will be available.

The budget must then be approved by referendum vote on June 10 to become adopted. If the budget is not approved June 10, the Wiscasset School Board will need to present a new budget to voters.

The budget voters will consider includes: regular instruction, $3,926,988.74; special education, $1,577,797.93 career and technical education, $0; other instruction; $195,076.96; student and staff support, $793,982.15; system administration, $431,976.18; school administration; $584,993.57; transportation, $486,120.36; facilities maintenance, $1,235,262.02; all other expenditures, $175,865.00

Article 15 will ask voters to appropriate $10,000 for adult education. This represents a major reduction of the $78,897 budget originally presented to the school board by Anne Fensie, Wiscasset Adult and Community Education Director. The only portion of adult education the board is willing to ask voters to fund is a program to help 16 to 20 years olds obtain high school equivalency.

School board members have commended the quality of Wiscasset's adult education program, but say it is too big to be funded solely by Wiscasset taxpayers. According to Fensie the $78,897 represents the operational cost of the program.

Fensie said she told the board in early April only 20 percent of the participants in the adult education program are from Wiscasset.

School Board Member Sharon Nichols, whose resignation becomes effective on June 10, was the only school board member who voted against the proposed budget.

Nichols said it was part of her responsibility as a school board member to "provide and maintain educationally efficient facilities," as stated in the guide for Maine school boards.

"The proposed school budget maintains all educational programs which I support but does not efficiently consolidate educational resources, personnel and facilities," she said.

Nichols said in 2007, the Wiscasset School Board had an extensive professional study conducted to look at reducing unused space. The study concluded, the middle school building should be closed and the students split between the primary and high school facilities, Nichols said.

"The conclusions of the study still apply, we still need capital improvements in all three buildings, have empty rooms and declining enrollment," Nichols said. "One key difference is the projected decline in enrollment is greater than predicted, indicating a need to act now. I cannot support a significant tax increase as long as the board is proposing a three building budget."

Dorr said he probably is the only superintendent that has no employees to help him, but acknowledged the help of Shelley Schmal, Wiscasset High School's administrative assistant.

"Very frankly, we couldn't be where we are tonight without the help of Shelley Schmal," Dorr said. "That lady is phenomenal. I don't know what we pay her, but it isn't even close to what she is worth."

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