MILO, Maine — The SAD 41 Board of Directors gave their approval to a budget for the 2014-15 school year totaling $8,034,429 during a June 11 meeting. This total figure represents an increase of over $193,100 from the current academic year.
Superintendent Michael Wright explained the local contribution for the four district communities is up by about $21,460 to $2,022,770.
“By and large, if you are a resident of SAD 41, the proportion of state subsidy to local funds is about 75 percent to 25 percent,” he said, with other districts having a ratio closer to 50/50.
“The total increase in the budget to taxpayers is about $21,000,” Wright said. He said this breaks down to increases for the four towns, with Atkinson’s assessment up by a little more than $4,000, Brownville’s up by about $5,400, LaGrange seeing a near $1,260 increase and Milo’s assessment rising by about $10,740.
“The thing we can’t control is the valuation,” Wright said. “We think it’s a pretty responsible budget; we think it meets most of our needs, and it is something we can afford.”
The School Board scheduled the district budget meeting for 6 p.m. Thursday, June 26 at Penquis Valley High School, with an information session at 5:30 p.m. The budget approved on June 26 will then go out to a referendum vote across the four SAD 41 communities on June 30.
In addition to a ballot question asking to approve the 2014-15 budget, residents of LaGrange will be asked if they favor authorizing the board to close the Marion C. Cook School. Shuttering the building would provide an estimated saving of $304,680, but citizens can vote for the town to fund the facility for another year.
The week the School Board met before a public meeting was held in LaGrange to discuss the potential Cook School closure.
“My take on the meeting, by and large, about 90 to 95 percent were in favor of the realignment,” Wright said. “Nobody likes closing small schools.”
He said in addition to the savings of closing the Cook School, another $150,000 was saved with the realignment plan enacted for the current year. Wright said the realignment went about as well as district officials could have hoped for, with seven students graduating from the Carleton Project and possibly as many as 20 students taking part in the secondary school in the fall.
“We think it’s been very good for those kids,” Wright said about the academy program, which also was added for 2013-14. “The grade six kids who came up here are doing well,” he added about the move of these pupils to the middle school at Penquis Valley. Wright said most of the LaGrange students ended up making a successful transition to Milo Elementary.
“I would prefer we didn’t have to cut anything, but we have challenges, big challenges,” Wright said during the public comment portion of the meeting during a discussion on the computer-aided design program at Penquis Valley High School. He said the possibility of eliminating the program from the budget has been discussed for several years and “in order to keep CAD viable, we have to upgrade the program.”
Wright said the needed upgrade and cost of offering the class is in the $50,000-range. He said there are many things he would like to see, such as an assistant principal at Milo Elementary, a technology integration specialist and two new school buses annually.
“They are all tough decisions. That’s why I recommended this year we not put money into upgrading CAD,” he said.
Assistant Principal Micah Grant said, “I greatly appreciate the work [teacher Bob Hayes] does with the program and the outlet he provides for our students.” Grant said the class is not a prerequisite for college CAD programs.
“Ultimately we have only had one student in four years go into CAD in college out of high school,” he said. “I would like to keep it, but I don’t think it’s cost-effective.”
Grant said discussions with other area administrators have indicated interested students can take part in similar programs at the Tri-County Technical Center in Dexter.
“I do believe we have over 30 students in the last 20 years who are now making a living off of CAD after going through this program,” Hayes said. He said some of these alums are working up Park Street at JSI Store Fixtures and others are in Portland and elsewhere in the country.
“The kids really enjoy it, and they end up with a saleable skill after the first year,” Hayes said.
The board approved the nomination of a pair of administrators for the next school year. Nathen Dyer, who teaches in Old Town and has been a teaching principal in Alton, will be the principal at Milo Elementary.
Dyer will succeed Julie Royal, who will be moving to the Brownville Elementary School to take over for the retiring Lynn Weston.
William Vigue was hired as the assistant principal at Penquis Valley High School and Middle School. Vigue is a social studies teacher at Nokomis Regional High School in Newport.
Vigue will assume the position held by Grant, who next year will become principal of Penquis Valley.