Originally published in The Weekly Packet, March 28, 2013
Blue Hill School budget up 4.4 percent
by Anne Berleant
Voters will be asked to approve a $4,688,780 school budget for 2013-14 at town meeting on April 6. This represents a 4.4 percent or $196,905 increase over this year’s budget of $4,491,875.
In creating the new budget, board members were faced with sharp rises in secondary tuition and special education.
As a result, a proposed pre-K program is not part of the final budget. Despite a favorable straw poll at the 2012 town meeting on starting a pre-K in Blue Hill, the approximate $49,000 price tag was too high.
High school tuition costs are up $96,990 or 9.28 percent over this year. The total cost of sending Blue Hill students to high school next year is $1,142,051.
Special education costs show a $54,454 or 11.9 percent rise, for a total of $511,306. The sharpest increase is for secondary special education tuition. George Stevens Academy will receive $24,600 for a special education surcharge for four students, Brewer will receive $6,546 for one, and Mount Desert Island receives a total $15,000 for special education ed. tech. services.
High school tuition and special education costs lie outside board control. However, board members have acknowledged they could have planned ahead for high school tuition costs based on student numbers.
“We weren’t as proactive as we should have been over the years to set aside money for GSA,” said Chairman Jon Smallidge, before the board voted to approved the proposed budget in February.
Based on current BHCS enrollment, in three years the number of high school students could jump from the current 100 to as high as 130.
In all other areas, the budget is basically flat. Elementary education programs are up $1,720 or 0.1 percent, for a total of $1,535,552. This is despite a contracted 2.5 percent or $28,874 increase in teacher salaries—24 full and part-time teachers will receive a total of $1,054,405, plus $285,000 in health insurance and associated benefits.
The state subsidy is projected at $90,000 and the amount of “carryover” money—funds accrued from what is left at the end of each school year—to be applied to the 2013-14 budget is $143,592.