News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, January 24, 2013
Sedgwick school board discusses first draft of budget
Write-in board candidates wanted

by Jessica Brophy

The Sedgwick School Board took a look at a tentative first draft of the 2013-14 budget at its monthly meeting on Tuesday, January 15. As it stands now, the budget will decrease 2.4 percent from the current year’s budget, from $1,977,397 to $1,929,917.

The decrease in the proposed budget can be attributed primarily to a reduction of a nurse from full time to part time at a savings of more than $42,000 and a $52,000 decrease in special education private tuition.

Changes include approximately $36,000 for increased educational technician salaries and health care; nearly $20,000 for speech therapist services; increased health care costs for school staff of nearly $7,500 and a $4,000 increase for high school tuition.

The local and state shares have not yet been finalized. The board has scheduled a tentative budget meeting for Monday, February 4, at 6 p.m., pending a conversation with the board of selectmen about the school budget.

Resident Gary Schneider asked why the school budget was only decreasing by 2.4 percent, after the current year’s budget required more than a $300,000 increase in the local share to the schools, though the current budget was only up approximately $50,000 from the 2011-12 budget. That large increase to local share was due to what former Superintendent Robert Webster termed a “misforecast” of the carryover, or “cushion” funds, as well as a decrease in revenues from the state.

There remains no “carryover” or cushion; in fact, the school administration is still working to close a budget deficit caused by the previous “misforecast.” The board explained to Schneider that the number of students enrolled in the school has remained constant for the past three years and that some costs have continued to rise.

In other business, the board discussed the upcoming town meeting and elections to the school board. While the opportunity to file papers to be an official school board candidate has passed, there is still ample time to announce a write-in candidacy, said Clare Grindal. Current board members Michael Sheahan and Michelle Levesque were both write-in candidates.

There are three school board seats available this year. One is a one-year seat currently held by recently-appointed Susan Ford. Ford has taken out and returned papers for that seat.

There are no declared candidates for the other two seats, which are both three-year terms, currently held by Clare Grindal and Ashley Pesek. Neither Grindal nor Pesek took out papers. If there are no write-in candidates elected to the two open three-year positions, the Sedgwick selectmen will appoint residents to the empty seats.

Sedgwick will begin its town meeting with voting on Friday, March 1. The business portion will reconvene at the historic town house on Saturday, March 2, at 9 a.m. to vote on the remaining articles.

The board next meets on Monday, February 4 at 6 p.m. at the elementary school for a budget meeting. Its next regular monthly meeting has been rescheduled from Tuesday, February 19 (during vacation) to Tuesday, February 26 at 6 p.m. at the school.