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Ideas for RSU 10 cost-saving measures
DIXFIELD -- With both the state and federal governments struggling with budgets, RSU 10 is facing a couple of tough years ahead, which means some tough cuts are looming, which perhaps can be softened if they can find more efficient uses for their facilities.
In a workshop following the regular board meeting Monday, work began on finding ways to find cost savings in their 10 buildings, savings that can be reflected in the next fiscal budget.
Several different ideas were discussed over the hour-long session, but the only directive given to Supt. Tom Ward was to seek an application for a new elementary school. It would involve getting placed on an already established construction list. Action on that list would likely not occur for at least five or six years.
Ward stated there is a need for a K-5 school in the Mountain Valley region due to the age of Rumford Elementary School and the fact that the open school construction of the Meroby Elementary School is now long outdated.
He noted however, that "when they evaluate you (for consideration), they evaluate the whole RSU."
Ward said the idea of a regional high school would be a real longtime possibility because the Maine won't even consider such a plan for at least 12 years.
Board members Betty Barrett and Bruce Ross noted that there are major expenses out now that they can't afford to wait until a new school is built.
Facing a tight schedule with the budget process about to get underway, Ward said the process of finding these savings needs to get underway in a hurry, looking at what they can do to impact the next budget. "We need to make more efficient use of our facilities. The challenge for us is can we reorganize in each of our regions."
The purpose of the workshop was to give some direction to brainstorm. "What makes sense. We also need communication with the communities -- to let us know how they feel," he said.
Last August, the board hired Planning Decisions, Inc. of Portland for $2,500 to project future enrollment in RSU 10 so that they could make decisions about how to best utilize their buildings moving forward.
Ward said one thing they learned was that the school population is projected to increase over the next 10 years, depending upon what happens regarding the transient population. The total of around 2,800 is higher than what RSU officials believed would be the case.
Part of the reason for the increase is that the birth rate in many of the member towns have increased over the past five or six years.
Ward said the buildings are going to be consistently full with the exception of Mountain Valley High School, which can hold 750 to 800 students but currently has about half of that.
MVHS Principal Matt Gilbert said one area of the high school where savings could be realized is the former industrial arts area, where there is a lot of square footage and is costing a lot to heat. One idea was to close down that wing.
He said they also have four classrooms that are being used, with limited use of Room 302, a lecture hall.
Ward said they are still in hopes of attracting the Univ. of Rumford/Mexico to move into the high school, although Gilbert noted that the university is too much in flux right now for that to happen.
"I'm not going to give up trying," noted Ward.
Also noted was that portable classrooms being used are not very efficient. Ward estimated the yearly cost of these is around $18,000 per unit.
There are three portable classrooms at Mountain Valley Middle School and two more at the Dirigo Middle School. A possible way to eliminate one or more for the portables could be accomplished by moving the sixth grade at DMS to the Dirigo Elementary School and moving eighth grade at MVMS to Mountain Valley High School.
Ward said these considerations are not only for cost savings but also a question is such moves will also be good for the students. "These are the kind of moves that can be done quickly within the budget process."
Another suggestion was to take a look at the per pupil cost in each of the school buildings.
Ward said another consideration is that natural gas is close to becoming available. "Our boilers can be easily converted. It would be a significant savings."
Rumford Elementary School students Gracy Farnham and Riley Sevigny wrote a letter to the school board, read by Ward, asking that if the time comes to consider closing a school that RES be spared. The girls then gave several reason to keep their school open.
Board Chairman Jerry Wiley noted that none of these ideas would involve any building closures as that would be a much longer process. Consideration to close a building would be a longterm consideration.
The administrative team will meet to brainstorm the ideas, then more details will be discussed at another workshop following the next board meeting, to take place on Jan. 28 at Meroby Elementary School.