SAD 41 directors approve $10.8 million 2023 budget

District budget meeting set for June 6

MILO – A proposed 2022-23 SAD 41 budget totaling $10,839,851 was approved by the school board during a meeting at the Penquis Valley School on May 4. 

The spending plan is now moved to the annual district budget meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, June 6, in the Walter “Eddie” Oakes Gymnasium at the school, starting with a 5:30 p.m. information session. The budget finalized that evening will go to a referendum in the SAD 41 towns of Brownville, LaGrange and Milo on Tuesday, June 14.

“I think you will see a pretty good budget. It does not have an increase to the taxpayers,” Superintendent Michael Wright said. “In fact it’s a decrease.”

The $10.8 million figure for the 2022-23 academic year is an increase of $622,367 from the current $10,217,483 budget

SAD 41 will receive  more than $6.95 million in EPS state funds, an increase of about $670,000. In order to receive these funds, the district communities must  raise $1,259,421, which is $75,678 less than in 2022-23. SAD 41 will ask for $1,056,505 in local additional monies.

“We didn’t increase what we were asking for that local additional amount,” Business Manager Heidi Sisco said, as the $1 million-plus figure is the exact same amount as the current year.

The proposed 2023 budget has a $2,357,903 local contribution, consisting of the local required and additional local monies as well as SAD 41’s near $42,000 proportional share of the Piscataquis County Adult Education Cooperative budget. The $2.3 million is down by $75,678 (3.11 percent).

Individual town assessments would each be less than in 2021-22. This includes a $1,142,003 total for Milo (a 4.41 percent decrease), a $779,226 contribution for Brownville (down by 0.84 percent), and LaGrange’s share would be $436,673 (down by 3.62 percent).

Wright said the June 14 referendum will include a question concerning a Revolving Renovation Fund project for the air system at Milo Elementary costing approximately $950,000. The project would be funded in large part through the Maine Department of Education’s Revolving Renovation Fund. 

If approved by area voters next month, the state would cover 70 percent of project costs while the district would be responsible for the other 30 percent (a $670,000/$280,000 split). This can be paid back over 10 years at 0 percent interest – equaling about $28,000 annually for a decade.

The superintendent will discuss the air system project with the public at the June 6 information session.

SAD 41 has utilized the school revolving renovation fund in years past. In 2017 SAD 41 residents approved an approximate $474,000 loan for a sprinkler system and elevator at Penquis Valley

In other business, officials from SAD 41 and three other area school districts continue to work on a regional comprehensive high school project. 

Wright said by the next meeting SAD 41 needs to have a finalized list of four people and several alternates to be involved in the interviews and hiring of an architect to lead the site selection process.

Project partners SAD 46 of Dexter, the Guilford-based SAD 4, and RSU 64 of Corinth will each appoint four district representatives as well. 

“I think come next fall we might know if people are really in or not,” Wright said. He said the school site will be key in determining if school districts will continue with the process or not. No districts are locked in as public votes on formally joining will be taken in the future if the project continues to progress.

The $100 million secondary institution would be the first of its kind in the state. It would be a community school district to be governed by 12 directors – three from each school unit who all come from the local boards.  The regional high school would be integrated with a career and technical school along with the University of Maine System and the Maine Community College System, and it would support industry training programs, according to a description on the DOE website.

“You would still have RSUs or SADs, which are interchangeable terms,” Wright said. He said these school units would oversee pre-K to grade 8 education in the respective districts.

The superintendent said a long-term question could be the fate of the other buildings in SAD 41, such as moving all students to the Penquis Valley complex if high school students go to a new school. “That would be something voted on by the community and that is way on down the road,” he said.

At last month’s school board meeting, an inquiry was made about going back to a universal start time across all SAD 41 schools, instead of the staggered beginnings that are in place. The schedules were adjusted at the start of the 2020-21 academic year to comply with restrictions on the number of students able to ride on buses.

Wright said a survey of staff had nearly even results favoring and opposed to staggered starts. His recommendation was to continue with the current schedule for the next month-plus of classes and have a universal start time starting next fall – a decision formally approved by the school board.

Penquis Valley High School Principal Michael Rollins said students took part in a Day of Service on April 26, working at many locations across the district including Brownville and Milo Elementary, American Legion properties, recreation fields and cemeteries.

“It’s a proud moment for me as principal to see that,” Rollins said. He said he stopped by every site to see the students giving back to the community and to provide them drinks and snacks.

Rollins thanked the Three Rivers Kiwanis for funding event T-shirts for all students,

He said the Day of Service was not held the previous two years during the pandemic, and moving forward similar events may be held more than once per year.

Get the Rest of the Story

Thank you for reading your 4 free articles this month. To continue reading, and support local, rural journalism, please subscribe.