SAD 41 directors approve $7.84M budget

Annual meeting June 20 at PVHS
By Stuart Hedstrom 
Staff Writer

    MILO — The SAD 41 Board of Directors gave their approval to a budget for the 2013-14 school year totaling $7,841,319 during a June 11 meeting. This figure represents a decrease of over $168,000 from the total for the current academic year of a little more than $8 million.

    While the total budget is less than the year before, the combined local contribution from the four SAD 41 communities is up by slightly more than $25,500. Milo’s portion is down by just over $19,500 to a total of just under $900,000, but the other three towns would all have an increase in what needs to be contributed toward the SAD 41 spending plan. These figures are an approximate $20,550 increase for Brownville for an amount of about $553,000, an over $16,500 increase for LaGrange for a total of about $343,700 and Atkinson would see an increase of slightly less than $8,000 to bring its portion of the budget to just under $206,000.
     “A large part of our budget any year is personnel, in those other lines there’s not a lot of extra,” Superintendent Michael Wright said. Highlighting the budget he mentioned that employees will receive a 2.5 percent raise, Anthem insurance costs have gone up by 13 percent and state retirement costs in the order of $100,000 have been passed onto school districts.
    He said revenues from a larger pre-kindergarten program will help support the budget, district realignment combined with retirements helps meet financial challenges and fund the Carleton Project — an alternate high school program that will be located in LaGrange at the Marion C. Cook School. Wright added that not filling some open positions allows SAD 41 to reduce costs and avoid additional layoffs.
    “All of these I see as factors for putting the budget together,” Wright said, saying both SAD 41 and its AOS partner SAD 31 have seen decreases in their costs for the school unit. “We are way ahead of what the plan called for,” he said, as one superintendent and business manager position were phased out by combining the jobs for SAD 41 and 31.
    “I would say it is still a work in progress, there’s no blueprint,” Wright said. “I think it is doing what we thought it would and we are still learning the possibilities.”
    The school board scheduled the district budget meeting for Thursday, June 20 at Penquis Valley High School at 6 p.m., with an information session beforehand at 5:30 p.m. The budget approved on June 20 will then go out to a referendum across the four SAD 41 communities on Thursday, June 27.
    The referendum ballot will include a second question, asking voters if they would like to continue with the referendum voting process for three more years. If so the budget will be decided via the budget meeting and ensuing referendum, or the meeting will be the sole vote to enact the spending plan.
    In other business, evacuation drills were recently conducted across the district during the day with students and teachers in school. “We did ours on the 30th of May,” Penquis Valley Principal Matt Hackett said.
    Hackett reported that students in the grade 7-12 school were very serious and mature for the drill, with those exiting the high school being accounted for at the marshalling site in eight minutes. The middle school wing evacuation was completed in 13 minutes.
    Milo Elementary Principal Eric Smith said the school’s mock evacuation provided insight into what should be and should not be done in an actual emergency. “All in all I think we learned a few things and there are a few things we would do differently,” he said. Smith said Milo Police Chief Damien Pickel and Rebecca Witham of Three Rivers Ambulance were present to observe the drill and provide some feedback.
    The evacuation at Brownville Elementary was called at 12:45 p.m. on May 22 with the students walking off the school grounds within minutes, Principal Lynn Weston reported. She said soon after school buses came to pick up the children and transport them to a secure location as town crews assisted in the process.
    Weston said an emergency evacuation drill was also conducted at the Marion C. Cook School. “Even though the school will look different next year, we thought it would be a good idea to do the drill so it would be familiar to (the students),” she said, as these elementary students will be attending other schools next year.
    The three principals also provided the board updates with on other happenings at their schools. Hackett said 42 students graduated, along with another fifth-year student who came back to complete their diploma requirements. Of these 42, 32 have been accepted and plan to pursue a post-secondary education.
    Hackett said two other diplomas were presented, one to School Board Chair Don Crossman who enlisted in the military in 1969 before he could complete all of his graduation requirements and the other to the mother of a student who passed away several years prior.
    The Class of 2013 at Penquis Valley received over $154,400 in scholarships, and Hackett said three students received scholarships totaling about $32,000 each to the University of Maine.
    “I think it was an excellent graduation and I think back to about a month ago when we were talking about the Governor’s report card on failing schools,” Wright said. He said he was proud to see how much of the community provided scholarship money for the graduating seniors and to see all of the support shown at the commencement ceremony.
    Smith said that five teachers will be retiring from Milo Elementary and the group has “a combined 190 years of teaching — I know a large portion of the 190 years are at Milo Elementary.” He said best wishes go to Nancy Barden, Victoria Carey, Deborah Dunham, Stephanie Gillis and Melanie Hussey.
    Weston said that a grant application for nearly $5,000 from the Maine Community Foundation was approved for the construction of an outdoor classroom by the nature trail at Brownville Elementary. She said the mason will begin work next month and the classroom should be ready for use in August.
    The Brownville Jct. High School Alumni Association made a donation to the outdoor classroom project, and Weston said it should be ready for the organization to see during its reunion in August.

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