News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, November 21, 2013
Penobscot School Board
First 2014-15 budget discussions begin

by Anne Berleant

With the first 2014-15 budget discussions underway, Union 93 bookkeeper Carolyn Heller presented the board with a snapshot of the current finances on November 11, and a general look ahead.

The board will review the first draft of next year’s budget at its December 9 meeting.

“We were very concerned last year with where we stood financially,” Heller said, citing the $20,000 pulled from reserve funds at a spring special town meeting to meet school expenses and leave something to carry forward to the next year.

A preliminary budget audit found $14,700 left of that amount in “carryfoward” funds for next year. With an estimated $91,000 state subsidy for 2013-14, against the school’s anticipated $23,000, the carryforward just from the state’s allocation could be $66,000.

Carryforward amounts are generally applied two years ahead; the 2013-14 carryforward funds would be considered as revenue for the 2015-16 budget.

Preliminary state subsidy numbers were released in June and are adjusted throughout the year. The final amount is announced after the board has already approved, and the town has voted on, the next year’s school budget.

“There is no guarantee when we’ll know that number is locked in,” said Superintendent Mark Hurvitt. “There could be a curtailment.”

“But this is good news,” he added.

This year’s budget lines are high in some areas, like bus repairs, with $8,000 spent out of $10,000 budgeted.

The bus driven by Denny Colson “is getting older,” said Principal Allen Cole.

An unanticipated $4,700 was spent on special education ed. tech. substitutes needed to fill positions left vacant by resignations.

Overall, three ed. techs. have resigned, resulting in an “ed. tech. stew,” said Hurvitt.

Two have been replaced, one who works one-on-one with a student, and one who is “everywhere,” said special education teacher Susan Varnum.

Christie McClaughlin has replaced Marilyn Plowman, and Tanja Danner has replaced Rebecca Howe, at an ed. tech. I rate of $11.50 per hour.

The board received its third ed. tech. resignation letter from Pam Ashmore at the meeting and authorized Hurvitt to “hire and inform.”

Cole, speaking after the meeting, said that the ed. techs. left their positions for different reasons, including retirement.

He also updated the board that the emergency plan draft is ready to be sent to Dick Bishop of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office for review.

“Has the fire department looked at it?” asked member Jim Goodman.

“Yes,” said Cole.

Board members had reviewed it prior to the meeting and, after some discussion, agreed that school visitors should be issued identifying badges.

In other business, the October 1 enrollment report shows 70 Penobscot students attending the elementary school, with five at Bay School, nine home-schooled and three at schools out of the area. Among high school students, 40 are enrolled at George Stevens Academy, two at Bucksport, 2.5 at Blue Hill Harbor School, 1.5 at Ellsworth or Hancock County Technical Center, two are home schooled and one is schooled out of the area.

“Projecting forward, the [Penobscot Elementary School] enrollment is going up,” said Chairman Jerry Markley.

Forty-seven students are enrolled in the pre-K through fourth grade, with 27 enrolled in fifth through eighth grades.

Finally, Dana Hooper of Brooksville was unanimously approved as the PenBrook boys basketball coach.