News Feature

Penobscot
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, November 21, 2013
Union 93 board wants redesign, not expansion of central office
Initial 2014-15 budget up 2.9 percent

Union 93 board members at a meeting on November 12

Superintendent Mark Hurvitt collects written ballots for the election of the Union 93 board chairman on November 12.

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

A request by the Union 93 central office to lease 1,811 square feet of adjoining space in its Hinckley Ridge Road location met with little enthusiasm from board members on November 12.

“It seems to me a pretty big request,” said Chairman Ben Wootten.

Superintendent Mark Hurvitt said a request for office expansion “is a hard thing to bring to the board,” but their current 2,000-plus square foot space lacks a conference room, private special education office, and space for IT and audit work. The adjoining space would add 1,811 square feet to the office.

“I look at this as the Louisiana Purchase,” said Superintendent Mark Hurvitt. “It’s next door, and we have the ability to pursue it.”

The cost of the additional space is $9,600 annual rent, with an estimated one-time $8,000 renovation cost. Union 93 currently pays $19,500 per year for its central office, which is leased through 2021.

Wootten agreed the current space is too small, but said the combined space is too big. He suggested an architect draw a redesign plan of the current space.

“Before we spend another $9,600, we should see what we can do with the space we have,” he said.

Board members also thought the renovation estimate low, which includes new plumbing.

“You’re jacking up concrete, which is expensive,” said Joe Spinazola (Castine).

“At this time, I think the central office should learn to do with what they have,” said Jerry Markley (Chairman, Penobscot). “I just think this is too much to ask the town of Penobscot.”

If the new space was leased and renovated, the initial first-year cost of $17,600 represents 3.1 percent of the union budget, Hurvitt said.

The board approved a motion to have an architect draw a redesign, with Markley abstaining.

Budget draft shows 2.9 percent increase

For 2014-15, the preliminary budget numbers—without the lease/renovation—show a 2.97 percent or $14,700 increase, which includes 2-percent staff raises.

“The consumer index was up 1.9 percent last time I checked,” Hurvitt said.

The total projected budget stands at around $515,000.

Larry Cassis (Brooksville) and Spinazola noted that the technology budget line did not include upgrades, something which Spinazola recommended occur on a rotating basis to avoid a large, one-year expense.

“We wanted to come in under 3 percent,” said Hurvitt.

The costs of running the central office is shared proportionally between the five towns in the union—Blue Hill, Brooksville, Castine, Penobscot and Surry—based on enrollment figures. The higher enrollment, the more the town pays. Blue Hill, with an enrollment of about 240 students this year, pays significantly more than the smaller union schools. The board will vote on the 2014-15 budget at its December 17 meeting.

Board fails to elect chairman

Not only are the union costs shared proportionally—so are the votes, based on the 2012 U.S. Census population data.

When two candidates—Ben Wootten and Joe Spinazola—were nominated for chairman, neither received enough votes to pass.

An article needs 3,847 votes to pass. Blue Hill, which holds over a third of the 7,792 total votes available, is a solid voting block, but can’t pass an article on its own.

Each Blue Hill board member has 535 votes while, at the lowest end, each Brooksville member has 186 votes. Castine members each receive 454, but Castine is the only three-person board in the union; all others are five.

The result of the hand vote was 3,210-3,196 in favor of Wootten.

A written ballot returned 3,196-2,896, favoring Spinazola.

Nine members were absent for the vote.

Last year, a similar scenario resulted in Wootten replacing long-time chairman Spinazola by a secret ballot in November.