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Sunday, May 29, 2016 Serving Maine and Lincoln County for over a century. Volume 141 Issue 21

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3/12/2014 2:00:00 PM
We Choose to Disagree

To the Editor:

Jefferson Village School chairman Bob Westrich responded to my letter regarding Jefferson school buses with this statement: "I think most will agree the Jefferson School Board has been proactive in planning and budgeting for the safe and cost effective transportation of our children." ("Jefferson does have a bus plan," LCN 3/6/14, Page 4)

We choose to disagree, and have provided some fact checking information as follows:

The chairman states: "Another application request was sent to the state via email on Nov. 19, 2012, with a follow-up on Nov. 26. Neither email was acknowledged."

The statement "another application request was sent to the state..." is factually inaccurate. Neither "email" was acknowledged because the application request was never sent. A good faith attempt was made to submit; it just wasn't successful.

At the Jefferson school board meeting on March 3, 2014 the superintendent read into the minutes the explanation for the missing acknowledgment from DOE. His explanation detailed the fact that the electronic form required the applicant to click on the 'submit button,' and this was not done.

Said missing application has also been characterized as "misplaced" or "lost." Neither term is accurate and both are misleading.

Chairman Westrich goes on to state: "When the 2012 to '13 bus purchase was not acknowledged or approved for replacement, the $40,000 was placed in the bus reserve account."

There was no bus reserve account. The $40,000 was moved out of the school budget at the urging of some of the budget committee members attending school board meetings. They argued that if the funds were not protected, the AOS 93 central office could entertain the idea of spending those funds in other areas.

The board agreed to protect the $40,000. The Jefferson town clerk created a special holding account titled School Bus Fund, and the $40K was moved into that account. Those funds then fell under the jurisdiction of town officials.

I still have not figured out how it is that one budgets $40K for a bus that costs $85K, but that will eventually become clear.

The chairman goes on to state: "Then, the state reimbursement would be used to replenish the bus account for the next bus purchase." On this we agree.

We agree with the plan of school board chairman Westrich to place the reimbursement funding from the bus purchased in February 2014 into the town account called School Bus Fund "for the next bus purchase." Placing the funds intended to purchase school buses in an account specifically dedicated to that goal is a plan I can support.

There were some omissions in my original letter. ("We should be able to budget for buses" LCN, 2/20/14, Page 4). One of them has to do with the cost of bus repairs.

Last year (2012 to 2013) the budget contained line items for bus repairs totaling $49,300. Actually we spent $69,708, $20,000 over budget, and almost enough to buy one of those $85,000 busses. In the last four years Jefferson has spent $214,680 in school bus repairs.

That is not a plan that inspires confidence. Perhaps the town officials should be empowered to manage the school bus fleet, and let the central office spend more time managing the quality of education.

Larry Grimard

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