News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, February 21, 2013
Special education, school tuition drive up Castine 2013-14 school budget

by Anne Berleant

Increasing costs in special education and secondary tuition will bump up next year’s school budget for the second year in a row. In a first draft of the 2013-14 budget, board members saw a 24 percent or $28,624 rise in its special education budget. This follows a 64 percent or $46,494 increase in 2012-13. And without local entitlement grant funds, the cost to taxpayers would be $18,000 more.

Secondary tuition costs, which rose 7.15 percent or $18,092 last year, will rise again, as four more students enter high school than graduate.

During budget discussions last year, board member Joe Spinazola warned that spikes in secondary tuition and special education would not decrease in the near future. Both are out of the board’s control, although it can cut other programs to compensate.

In special education, one full-time teacher, one elementary grade ed. tech., one high school ed. tech. and seven high school special education tuition surcharges account for the majority of its $147,776 budget for 2013-14.

The board saw a first draft of the 2013-14 budget at its February 6 meeting that showed an overall increase over 5 percent, but both Superintendent Mark Hurvitt and board Chairman Kathryn MacArthur consider 2 percent to be a more realistic number.

“No one’s thinking that [5 percent] is where it’s going to land,” said Hurvitt, in a follow-up telephone call.

“The goal of the board, right now at first blush, is to come in with a final budget of between 0 and 2 percent,” said MacArthur.

One cost is down, however—teacher salaries are projected to decrease 7.43 percent or $32,843, namely from the anticipated replacement of a long-time teacher who is retiring, with a new hire.

Not included in the budget at this point, for the second year and against state requirements, is funding for any kind of library program. Cut in 2012-13, board members said they would look into hiring a certified library tech. to replace services previously provided by Witherle Memorial Library. Currently, teachers can choose to take students to the library to choose books, but the formal teaching of library and Internet research skills, standard in a school library curriculum, will likely not be part of elementary instruction.