NEWPORT, Maine — Regional School Unit 19 Superintendent Greg Potter said that if the eight member towns turn down a $2.9 million stabilization loan for a third time, he will ask the board of directors to implement a districtwide shutdown for three to six weeks this winter.
RSU 19’s Budget and Finance Committee will discuss Potter’s budget recommendations for the next school year Tuesday night.
On Jan. 22, Potter laid out a plan to lower next year’s budget to $22 million. The plan assumes that the $2.9 million loan request shot down by the eight towns’ voters passes on the third attempt. Potter’s recommended budget would be significantly less than the $23,324,293 budget approved last year.
Potter said last week that he plans to ask the board of directors to bring the loan to the voters a third time. If it isn’t passed, he proposed a three- to six-week shutdown of the district in order to defer costs to the end of the school year.
“If the third loan attempt fails … we will be instituting a shutdown of the school system. A winter shutdown for some period of time — it could be three to six weeks of time,” Potter told the school board on Jan. 22. “I can’t reduce the number of student days below 175, but we can go to school in the summer and not in the winter. It doesn’t save a lot of money, it’s a little bit, but it is to delay payments we cannot make right now.
“We’re running $500,000 behind all the time in payrolls. Two to three months for some vendors. We want to be able to get some of those bills to get caught up,” Potter continued. “If you have a hiatus, essentially there will be certain categories of support staff folks — drivers, school year employees, hourlies, food service workers, those kinds of folks — that aren’t going to be getting a payroll during the shutdown. They’ll be working their days in the summer. It will allow us to pay our bills and get caught up with a number of vendors and it will allow us to manage our cash flow because this is an emergency. It still is. It hasn’t changed because the public said no to the loan. We’re still in it. We’re in the thick of it. It isn’t getting any better unless we take some measures. That will be discussed [Tuesday night].”
Potter recommended, among other things, 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 the transfers would result in as many as 10 teaching positions being eliminated, thus saving the district money.
Tonight’s meeting will take place at 6:30 in the library at Nokomis Regional High School.