May 26, 2018
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Millinocket leaders to meet Thursday to consider school budget

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

MILLINOCKET, Maine — Town leaders will decide Thursday whether to accept a no-frills $6.63 million school budget that holds the local taxpayer contribution to last year’s levels, officials said Monday.

The Town Council will meet at 4:30 p.m. to vote on the proposed 2012-13 budget. Councilors informally reached an agreement on the budget with Millinocket School Committee members at a workshop meeting last week, Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said.

The best part of the budget, Conlogue said, is the compromise both sides achieved in holding local taxpayer funding for town schools at $3.2 million, the same paid for the last school year, which ended June 30.

“Both parties want to come in at no increase to the taxpayer and that’s what this budget does,” school Superintendent Kenneth Smith said Monday. “This is really nothing more than a maintenance budget.

“To meet what the Town Council wanted is very difficult because you can’t go year after year without any increase to your employees,” Smith added.

Committee members agreed to cut their budget by $20,000 and councilors agreed to appropriate $28,000 toward the schools from the schools’ international student fund — money earned by the schools’ tuition students from China — to offset the cut, Conlogue said. The student fund stands outside the 2012-13 budget.

The proposed budget is about $106,755 larger than the 2011-12 budget. It anticipates an increase of $264,135 in nonlocal revenue sources and a $157,380 cut to the local taxpayer appropriation. It features an $80,000 cut to the undesignated fund balance allocation.

To help make the budget work, one of three music positions was cut to half-time. The teacher who held that position, music teacher Abby Jordan, resigned her job to take a position in Augusta. The half-time position will be filled by September, Smith said.

Two athletic director positions, at the middle and high school, were combined, as were some physical education positions at the high school, Smith said.

A huge element of the budget, Smith said, was the council’s decision to cover a $720,000 education funding shortfall caused by Gov. Paul LePage’s decision to withhold $216,000 in state education funding from Millinocket last spring.

LePage blamed Millinocket leaders’ decision to not honor an agreement to share operational costs for an East Millinocket landfill over several years. The landfill’s operation was crucial to the LePage-engineered revitalization of the Katahdin region’s two paper mills.

Town leaders denied LePage’s accusation. They said they only agreed to help pay landfill costs for one year and opted not to cash a $504,000 check state officials sent the town as part of the state’s attempted settlement of the dispute. A lawsuit filed by Millinocket against the state in the dispute is pending.

Without the council’s decision to cover the shortfall, Millinocket schools would have been doomed, Smith said.

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