News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, February 28, 2013
Blue Hill School budget hike kept under 5 percent
Hurvitt: “No new programs”

by Anne Berleant

At their February 13 meeting, school board members unanimously approved a 2013-14 budget of $4,689,394 .

This represents a 4.38 percent or $196,904 rise from this year’s budget of $4,491,875.

A proposed pre-K program, at a cost of around $49,000, and an algebra program for eighth-graders at George Stevens Academy did not make the final budget draft.

“No new programs,” said Superintendent Mark Hurvitt.

Secondary tuition and special education costs are behind the budget spike.

With more students entering high school than graduating, the school will pay $1,142,051 in secondary tuition next year, a 9.28 percent or $96,990 increase.

The board decided against using a $28,500 tuition reserve account to help cover the increase.

“I think it would be foolish to use the reserve account just to hit a target number,” said Chairman Jon Smallidge.

The tuition reserve account exists to cover high school students that may enroll after the budget is passed.

Special education costs are up 11.9 percent or $54,454 for a proposed total of $511,306, even with moving $6,000 of transportation costs and over $26,000 in ed. tech. salary and benefits into different budget lines.

As a result of those moves, transportation is up 13.1 percent or $32,551 and RTI (Response to Intervention) instruction is up 41.3 percent or $33,800.

Secondary tuition and special education are two budget areas that lie outside of board control.

However, board members acknowledged they could have foreseen the increase in high school students.

“We weren’t as proactive as we should have been over the years to set aside money for GSA,” said Smallidge.

Based on current enrollment at BHCS, in three years the number of high school students could jump from the current 100 to 130, noted board member Annie Rice.

Another increase is in teacher salaries, up 2.5 percent or $28,874, reflecting contracted raises, which were “not out of line at the time of negotiating,” said Smallidge.

All other areas of the budget are about level or show lower numbers than last year. Elementary education is up 0.1 percent; operation and maintenance costs are down 4.2 percent.

Board member Ben Wootten questioned the $14,000 budgeted for field trips, noting that the $2,600 budgeted to cover the fourth-grade visit to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston runs against board policy, which requires fundraising to cover half of out-of-state field trips. As a result, $1,300 was taken from that line.

Wootten also questioned the Camp Kieve leadership program, at a cost of $7,170 and one week of missed classes.

“You better make damn sure it’s really worth it,” he said.

Voters will be asked to approve the budget at town meeting on Saturday, April 6, at Blue Hill Consolidated School.