Millinocket council, school leaders to meet Jan. 17

Posted Jan. 13, 2012, at 7:16 p.m.

MILLINOCKET, Maine — Town and school leaders will have a clear-the-air meeting next week to address the school system’s budget and the $158,000 in state funds the town has that school leaders want, Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said Friday.

The Town Council met Thursday and decided to accept the school committee’s invitation to meet at Stearns High School on Jan. 17, Conlogue said. Councilors sent to the committee a list of about 13 matters for discussion.

The issues, Conlogue said, include: the fiscal-year 2013 school budget parameters; school salary and benefit negotiations; a town property tax freeze; more detailed accounting of federal grants in school budget documents; debt-service payments attached to the installation of a new heating system at Stearns; and retiree health insurance costs.

Dean Beaupain, a Millinocket lawyer contracted to represent the town, will attend to discuss the $158,000 in Sudden and Severe Impact money the town received from the state. Millinocket received the money because of the devaluation of the town paper mill over the past year.

The breadth of issues councilors raised coincides with the wishes of new school committee Chairman Kevin Gregory when he called for the meeting a week ago.

“We want to talk about everything — our budget [now], our process coming up,” Gregory said. “I want to be able to get along with them. We have to have communication. If we don’t have that, we are just going to be barking at one another. Both boards want what’s best for our children and our townspeople.”

Council members had expressed concerns about the sudden resignation of school board Chairman Arnold Hopkins on Dec. 21. Hopkins had most recently made the news by saying school leaders had instituted a spending freeze in anticipation of a predicted $140,000 to $150,000 shortfall caused partly by the school system’s failure to meet its goals for tuition-paying Chinese students at Stearns.

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