News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, December 19, 2013
Three percent increase approved for Union 93 2014-15 budget
Joe Spinazola returns as chairman

Castine School Board attends Union 93 meeting

The Castine School Board, from left, Joe Spinazola, Chairman Cathy MacArthur and Temple Blackwood approved the Union 93 central office budget on December 17 at Penobscot Community School. Spinazola was also elected chairman of the Union 93 board.

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

Nearly two dozen school board members and central office staff gathered at Penobscot Community School on December 17 to review, explain and ultimately approve the 2014-15 budget for Union 93 operations.

The final, but unconfirmed, number was $524,268, after some last-minute additions. This represents about a 3 percent increase over last year.

The five school boards split the central office budget by sharing 50 percent of the cost equally and 50 percent based on school population, with Blue Hill paying the most and Castine and Brooksville paying the least.

Board members voted to renovate rather than expand the central office in Blue Hill to accommodate a special education office that ensured confidentiality, at a cost of $8,300. An additional $1,500 was approved for extra storage space, whether on site or at Blue Hill Consolidated School; that will be decided at an April meeting.

Mike Snow, lessor of the central office building on Hinckley Ridge Road, provided plans for an expansion into adjoining building space and for renovation.

By choosing to renovate, he said, “if you add one more person, you’ll be back in existing conditions.” The cost to expand the office was cited as between $16,600 and $17,800, with an additional annual rent of $9,600.

“Are these hard numbers?” asked Brad Jones (Brooksville).

“I’d probably have to say yes,” said Snow.

Union 93 currently pays $19,500 per year rent for 2,000 square feet on a lease that runs through 2021. The expansion would have added 1,811 square feet.

“We need more room, but we don’t need all of it,” Joe Spinazola (Castine) said.

Two-percent raises were approved for all central office staff except business/office manager Carolyn Heller, who received a 5 percent raise. This brings her salary closer to the state average for similar positions. Jerry Markley (chairman, Penobscot) was the sole vote against salary increases for the superintendent, curriculum coordinator and special education director positions, joined by a slim minority against the higher raise for Heller.

First, board members held the election for chairman, after nominees failed to win the majority of votes needed in November.

Joe Spinazola (Castine) replaced Ben Wootten as the chairman, a position he held for several years prior to 2013. The vote was complicated when a third nominee, Jim Goodman (Penobscot), joined Spinazola and Wootten (Blue Hill).

Political machinations between the November and December votes appeared obvious, with some board members nominating one candidate yet voting for another. The initial voice vote failed to carry Spinazola; he passed by a narrow margin in a written vote.

Board members each receive a weighted number of votes, depending on the size of the school board and school population.