RSU 19 superintendent recommends plan to reduce next year’s budget

Posted Jan. 22, 2013, at 10:43 p.m.

NEWPORT, Maine — Despite a $2.9 million budget shortfall for this school year, RSU 19 has started work on next year’s budget.

Superintendent Greg Potter presented the RSU 19 board of directors his preliminary budget information on Tuesday evening.

Although there are still many questions regarding funding from the state level, Potter recommended a $22 million budget for the 2013-2014 school year, provided that the $2.9 million loan vote will pass on its third attempt.

“If the loan isn’t approved, this number changes big time,” Potter said to the board. “I think if we’re creative, we can do it.”

Potter’s recommended budget would be significantly less than the budget approved last year of $23,324,293.

In order to get the district’s budget down to that number, Potter recommended some drastic cuts.

His first recommendation would be close and sell RSU 19’s central office in Newport, which he said is valued at $350,000.

Transferring students from one school to another would also increase class sizes and cut teacher positions, he said.

Potter recommended transferring grades two, three and four from St. Albans Consolidated School to Corinna Elementary and Hartland Consolidated School. He also recommended transferring half of grades seven and eight from Etna-Dixmont School to Sebasticook Valley Middle School in Newport. He said as many as 10 teaching positions could be eliminated, thus saving the district money.

Major contracts could be put out to bid resulting in the savings of tens of thousands of dollars, said Potter.

Other recommended changes include using per-pupil allotments for supplies and equipment, adjustment to transportation costs for new buses, freezing at will employees salaries and benefits at current levels and offering a one-time retirement incentive for retirement-age employees.

“I think we need to go through everything very, very carefully. I’m telling you, we’re looking at every dollar. Every dollar is important,” said Potter.

He said he would like to maintain or enhance student opportunities.

Provided the third loan attempt passes, the recommended budget would “result in a fairly stable billing to the towns,” said Potter.

However, the first major hurdle is getting the $2.9 million loan passed by the eight member towns. It has been voted down twice already.

Potter said he recommends that the board asks the towns for the loan a third and final time.

“It would be much more difficult if we don’t obtain a loan and have control over that loan over time,” he said.

If the loan again fails to pass, $1.4 million in debt would have to be figured into the next school year’s budget with the remaining $1.5 million revenue anticipation note likely going to court, as Androscoggin Bank is likely to sue the school district to get back the loan, Potter said, and the decision would be left up to a judge.

That would inflate the budget to between $23.5 and $24 million, he said.

Potter’s recommendations will be considered during a budget committee meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29. The board of directors will meet again at 7:30 p.m. the next night to discuss the budget committee’s recommendations.

The board voted unanimously to change Monday, March 18, from a regularly scheduled student schoolday to a teacher workshop day. The schoolday would be made up at the end of the school year, moving the last day of school to June 13.

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