News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, January 30, 2014
Brooksville board approves 2014-15 school budget; programs reduced, staff cut

by Anne Berleant

School board members met one final time on January 21 before, in short order, presenting a proposed 2014-15 budget to the Budget and Advisory Committee and then approving it. The number is $1,789,902, reflecting a 2.67 percent or $46,582 increase from the current year.

“[The budget committee] voted to give their stamp of approval before the school board did,” said Union 93 Superintendent Mark Hurvitt.

Programs have been reduced, but not fully cut. “We didn’t want to cut any programs,” said Chairman Charles Tarr after the board unanimously approved the budget. “[The budget committee] realized it was a hard decision to make and was happy with what the board did.”

One 60-percent teacher position and three ed. tech. positions have been cut, with library reduced from 20 to seven hours per week.

The foreign language program survived, but Tarr and Hurvitt acknowledged finding someone to fill the 40-percent position presented difficulty. Brian Adams, the current French teacher, fills the 60-percent teacher position cut for next year.

While the board vote was unanimous, Brad Jones first prompted the board to look for ways to bring the increase down to under 2 percent. Using Penobscot to compare services, the board entertained and then dismissed suggestions to cut from the music and art programs or to cut out guidance.

“I’m still not sure that $10,000 [for guidance] couldn’t be better spent,” said Jones.

“I think we’ve rocked the boat enough,” said Hurvitt.

The only suggestion with teeth was to cut one of two extra high school tuitions, which act as insurance for any new students moving to Brooksville after the budget is passed. That would have lowered the budget by about $10,000 but, ultimately, remained.

A new school bus ($15,000, to add to the $50,000 in a reserve account) and $30,000 for anticipated legal fees contribute to the $46,582 increase. Increases in teacher health insurance and mandated pay-ins to teacher retirement funds have been off-set by the reduction in staff and programs.

“Legal services are really skewing it,” said Tarr.

Cuts to the ed. tech. staff have reduced $39,119 from special education. Shelia Levine, special education director for Union 93, met with the board last week in a special budget meeting.

“It’s really difficult with such few children,” Tarr said after the meeting.

Voters will be asked to approve the 2014-15 budget during town meeting on March 4.