News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, February 1, 2018
Penobscot school budget climbs 2.3 percent

by Tevlin Schuetz

The school board passed a proposed budget for 2018-19 during a special meeting on January 25. Members voted in favor of expenditures totaling $1,879,826, a $42,614 or 2.32 percent increase over this school year’s budget.

Union 93 Superintendent Mark Hurvitt said the budget has been planned to cover 75 students at the elementary school. While regular elementary instruction is the largest cost center in the budget, it will decrease by $1,026 or 0.16 percent to $629,446.

The sharpest increase is in the secondary education budget line. A number of Penobscot students are attending area high schools next year, raising projected tuition and associated costs by $62,424 or 16.94 percent to $430,924. The budget covers eight students at Bucksport High School, one at Ellsworth, one at Deer Isle-Stonington, 25 at George Stevens Academy, and one at the Blue Hill Harbor School.

The numbers could change, Hurvitt explained, as students come and go and change schools.

The budget includes basic 2-percent raises for all employees, as approved by the school board during a meeting in January. Principal Jay Corbin’s contract will be extended for another year, and he will receive a 3-percent increase, boosting his salary to $74,675.

Operations and maintenance have been allotted $167,801, down $24,223 or 12.61 percent from the $192,033 budgeted for the current school year. This is due to the parking lot paving work having been completed last year, Hurvitt said, as well as a $2,000 decrease in the amount slated for heating oil for 2018-19.

New building-related expenditures in the proposed budget include “priority one” items from a larger, longer-term maintenance to-do list, Hurvitt said, such as: fire alarm system replacement, for $3,815; attic ventilation and insulation, $18,000; music room entryway work, $2,000; and new safety matting in the gym, $3,000. Corbin added that the priority-one items address safety or satisfy building code requirements.

Transportation costs will be down slightly from 2017-18 to $128,746, mostly due to a 28.57 percent or $4,000 reduction in the budget for diesel fuel.

Special education costs also decreased, while the extra- and co-curricular budget rose by $1,200 or 10.82 percent to $12,290, reflecting added teaching stipends and sports officiating costs. The food service budget also went up 3.83 percent to total $66,264.

The student health services line rose by $3,847, just over 29 percent, to $16,971. This was mainly due to the Union 93 board’s decision to offer more comprehensive health insurance as part of the school nurse position’s compensation. The post—which serves all the schools in the union—had been vacant, and there were no applicants, Hurvitt explained; the union board added the benefit to entice potential candidates.

The board also approved a $30,000 addition to the school bus reserve, which will total $40,000, while the building repairs reserve remained at $16,000.

Public Meeting

The People’s Forum of Penobscot will present a report on school viability and open the floor for discussion on Wednesday, February 7, at 6:30 p.m. in the school auditorium.