Woodworking and foreign language teachers, library staff and social worker among 10 job cuts proposed to balance Rockland-area school budget

Michael Wilhelm prepares to sign a contract with Regional School Unit 13 Board Chairwoman Esther &quotTess" Kilgour in February to serve as the Rockland-area school district's interim superintendent through May 24.
Stephen Betts | BDN
Michael Wilhelm prepares to sign a contract with Regional School Unit 13 Board Chairwoman Esther "Tess" Kilgour in February to serve as the Rockland-area school district's interim superintendent through May 24. Buy Photo
Posted April 17, 2014, at 8:36 a.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The Rockland-area schools superintendent on Wednesday night unveiled a list of potential staff cuts in an effort to try to bridge the gap between revenues and expenses.

The Regional School Unit 13 board took no action Wednesday night on the package but may take a final vote at its next meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, April 28 at the McLain School. The package would cut 10 positions and reduce the next fiscal year’s budget by approximately $500,000.

Even with those cuts, however, the district would need to collect $774,000 more from the six communities that make up RSU 13 than it is this year.

The proposed 2014-2015 budget currently stands at slightly less than $27 million. This is down from the approved $27.2 million budget for 2013-2014. But because the district will have significantly less surplus and other revenues, the district will need to rely more heavily on property taxes or make further cuts to balance the budget.

Interim Superintendent Michael Wilhelm said Wednesday night the administration was able to find about $200,000 in small cuts.

“We’re finding a little reduction here, a little reduction there, nothing controversial,” Wilhelm said.

The package of additional cuts offered Wednesday night is expected to generate discussion. The proposed cuts include a high school industrial technology teacher, two world languages teachers, two library/media positions, a social worker at the South School, an industrial technology educational technician, an administrative assistant at Oceanside High School West, an educational technician at the Oceanside West’s library and not filling the first-semester leave for an English language arts teacher at Oceanside East.

The proposal also calls for filling the soon-to-be-vacant Oceanside High School East principal post with an existing administrator within the district.

The high school industrial technology cut was recommended because the district wants to focus more on science and technology education while the current program at the high school is woodworking, according to superintendent’s recommendation. The proposed world languages budget reductions would eliminate foreign languages at the elementary level.

Not filling the principal post is being recommended because the district is considering reconfiguring the high school — now consisting of two buildings at Oceanside West in Thomaston that educates eighth and ninth graders and Oceanside East, which educates students in 10th through 12th grades. Oceanside East Principal Tom Forti announced last week that he would be leaving after the end of the school year. The district has discussed whether it should combine the two schools in Rockland.

The reductions in librarian positions is being proposed, according to the administration, because of greater use of technology and the need to revamp the technology/media positions. If the cuts are made, the libraries in kindergarten through seventh grades would be staffed by educational technicians overseen by a certified librarian.

Even with the cuts, an additional $774,347 will need to be raised from the property taxpayers in Rockland, Thomaston, St. George, Owls Head, South Thomaston and Cushing.

St. George would be asked to pick up the largest share — an additional approximately $250,000. Rockland would be paying about an additional $230,000. Thomaston would pay about $85,000 more. Cushing would pay about $80,000 more. South Thomaston’s increase would be about $56,000 and Owls Head would pay about $51,000 more.

At a meeting earlier this month, the board split on what target to give the superintendent for a budget in terms of tax increases or cuts. Board Chairman Steve Roberts said at that meeting that the high tax rate in Rockland is obscene and inhibits economic development. He said higher taxes in Rockland could discourage businesses from moving there.

Board member George Emery of St. George said at that meeting that the board cannot continue cutting if it wants people to move to the district.

The current schedule calls for the board to vote on the budget on April 28. The districtwide budget meeting at which registered voters of the six communities can attend and adopt or revise the board’s recommended budget is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 27 at Oceanside East.

That budget would then go on the June 10 ballot in the six communities for a yes or no vote.

 

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