News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, September 6, 2012
Sedgwick school board struggling with budget shortfall

by Jessica Brophy

The Sedgwick school board is still struggling to fill the remaining $158,000 shortfall from the 2011-12 budget, which had been over $200,000. The gap was discovered last year during budgeting for the 2012-13 school year, and a “budget freeze” was put into play at the elementary school. The gap was the result of a “misforecast” by former superintendent Robert Webster during the creation of the 2011-12 budget.

A warrant article during the 2012 Sedgwick town meeting authorized the school board to tap the reserve accounts to offset the shortfall. At its meeting on August 21, the board voted 3-0 (Pesek absent) to use $60,137 from the tuition reserve account toward the budget shortfall. However, the board declined to use the $53,418 in the maintenance reserve account toward the overall shortfall.

Board chairman Clare Grindal said she had not agreed to use the maintenance funds to offset the shortfall.

“We can’t zero out the maintenance fund unless we want the building to fall down around us,” she said.

Board members Michele Levesque and Michael Sheahan agreed, citing a number of facilities projects that need work. The school’s 2012-13 budget even added $10,000 to the maintenance reserve account.

“We’ve worked hard to build that up,” said Grindal. “It’s not like the roof will last forever.”

The 2012-13 budget, after the tuition reserve account funds are applied, is still carrying a $98,114 shortfall from last year’s budget.

In a follow-up phone interview, Sedgwick Elementary principal Don Buckingham called last year’s six-month budget freeze “intense—we didn’t buy anything.” Buckingham said many people in the community and nearby communities donated supplies and money, helping the school get through the second half of the school year. Buckingham does not want to see a repeat of the budget freeze this year.

“It’s not fair to the kids,” said Buckingham, who said it is kids and staff who “bear the brunt” of a budget freeze.

In other business, the school board approved school lunch prices as follows: $2.30 for lunch, $.40 reduced, $1 for breakfast and $5.40 for adult lunch (3-0).

A memorandum of understanding was approved to continue Sedgwick Elementary’s relationship with Head Start (3-0).

The school board next meets on Tuesday, September 18, 6 pm., at the school.