SAD 41 planning and budgeting for the future

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MILO — SAD 41 officials continue to work on short- and long-term plans for district facilities. During a Jan. 11 meeting of the school board Assistant Superintendent Meredith Higgins said a capital improvement committee meeting set for earlier in the evening with Architect Stephen Blatt of Portland was canceled due to an illness.
“I know we are still awaiting a report from Stephen Blatt,” she said. Blatt had toured and assessed both the Brownville and Milo elementary schools, and was scheduled to present his findings to address various needed improvements at each building.
The district has also been working with Blatt to research a potential $10 million project that would convert the Penquis Valley complex into a pre-kindergarten through grade 12 facility, after looking into the costs to renovate the existing building along with the two elementary schools. Regardless of whether and/or when the project goes through, improvements will still be needed in the near future at the elementary facilities if the Penquis Valley project is delayed to await potential state funding.
Higgins said SAD 41 officials are still awaiting word on a pair of project funding possibilities. SAD 41 has been approved for a $2.1 million quality zone academy bond with the funding for building renovations including a 0 percent interest rate as the principal is paid back in 25 years.
Another application is pending with a revolving renovation fund in which up to 70 percent of qualifying construction costs are covered by the state. Higgins said SAD 41 could hear if the district has been approved by the end of the month and if so will see if both funding packages can be used or not.
Higgins said Blatt’s report on the elementary buildings and his work on the larger project will all be part of the development of the budget for the 2017-18 academic year.
“We are starting the budget process, (Business Manager Darlene Ricker) is working on the spreadsheets,” Higgins said. She said administrators will have their requests to Superintendent Michael Wright by Feb. 8.
“Then we will begin putting those numbers together and looking at the whole picture,” she said.
In other business, last month the initial meeting between the district and a newly-formed Atkinson withdrawal committee was held with the session called to order by SAD 41 Chair Arthur Herbest and ensuing proceedings allowing the town to appoint officers to the group to run the proceedings then and in the future. The committee includes a pair of board members from the other three district towns of Brownville, LaGrange and Milo.
“We wait at this point to respond to their proposal,” Higgins said. “Really all we have heard is requests for information that we have sent along to help them with their process.”
During the November referendum Atkinson residents voted to file a petition to withdraw from SAD 41, to be done via a committee through negotiations with the school district. The exit effort is separate from a deorganization plan the community is also pursuing, but under both efforts Atkinson students would instead head west to RSU 68/Foxcroft Academy.

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