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More cuts requested in proposed RSU 10 budget
DIXFIELD -- Next Monday, the RSU 10 board is expected to act on recommended cuts that would bring the 2013-14 budget to $36 million.
This meeting was necessary because at the prior week, the board decided they wanted Supt. Tom Ward to find at least another $300,000 to $400,000 in additional cuts to bring the 2013-14 budget to $36 million.
According to recent state valuations, Ward said school taxes in about half of the district’s member towns would increase, while the other half would experience a decrease.
The original budget requests totaled $37.6 million, which is $2.5 million more than the current budget. The administrative team had proposed 15 areas to trim $1.165 million, with further cuts to be required.
Among the recommended cuts was eliminating costs for conducting accreditation of the district’s three high schools in Rumford, Dixfield and Buckfield.
Buckfield was scheduled to begin its accreditation process in the coming year. The $30,000 would pay for it and dues to the New England Association of Schools and Colleges for Dirigo and Mountain Valley high schools, whose accreditations are up-to-date.
Ward noted that at the minimum, Maine high schools are accredited by the state. Because of the demands of time, money and energy required for the NEASC accreditation, about half the state's high schools no longer have this accreditation. The larger the school, the greater the expense. He added that once the district stops raising funds for the process, NEASC accreditation would likely not return.
Mountain Valley High School Principal Matt Gilbert said he has not seen any negative connotations for schools without NEASC certification. Schools like Mt. Blue, St. Dom's and Monmouth do not have this certification and "they are not seeing ramications as far as impact on kids."
He noted that they should keep some version of a self-evaluation. “We can do a lot of that among the staff.”
Buckfield board member Maida Demers-Dobson objected to the proposal. She questioned what would take its place.
“I just get anxious when I think about budget cuts in such things. I know these things are all agonizing costs, but with most of them, they could be brought back. With accreditation, when it’s done, it’s done,” she said.
Also recommended was not adding another pre-kindergarten class at Dirigo Elementary School in Peru, a savings of $100,000.
DES Principal Charley Swan said that entering the school year, there were 45 applicants for 30 slots.
There's presently a pre-K program at each of the elementary schools, which caters mostly to four year olds.
Ward said they would save $150,000 if the district is able to lock in a $3 per gallon rate for diesel/No. 2 heating oil.
Other recommendations for removal from a proposed 2013-14 budget include: a $191,000 reduction in building maintenance; $100,000 from technology, which would mean the loss of two positions; and the elimination of two educational technicians, one of the four trip bus drivers ($50,000), three interim teaching positions ($120,000) and a half-time industrial arts teacher ($44,000), for which they've advertised and have not been able to fill.
The recommendations also included returning the second floor of the Buckfield Town Office building to the town ($11,000 per year to operate), reducing the stipends paid for co- and extra-curricular stipends by 10 percent ($60,000), cutting the costs for co- and extra-curricular supplies by 10 percent ($25,000); savings on retirement incentives ($100,000); and cutting 10 percent from building budgets ($64,000).
Ward had further ideas for cost savings, including combining alternative education programs at Buckfield and MVHS at MVHS, where they have the space, and use three teachers instead of four; to move the bus garage at Dixfield to MVHS ($26,000); and removing $250,000 of the $300,000 for participation in the Maine Learning Technology Initiative program for the next year, which supplies computers to students.
Most of the board members voiced continuing with the MLTI program.
In other business, the first round of superintendent applications resulted in few responses, so the position is being advertised again until May 10.
The Maine School Management Association will review the applications and forward those that qualify to the Superintendent Search Committee for review from May 15-20.
The committee will decide conduct interviews from 2 to 5 p.m. May 22 and 23. A second interview, site visit, and negotiations are expected to take place May 28-31. The entire board will interview the finalist on June 3.
It was announced that Mountain Valley High School seniors will graduate at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 6, at Puiia Gym at the Rumford school; Dirigo High School seniors will graduate at 6 p.m. Friday, June 7, at the school gym in Dixfield; and Buckfield high school seniors will graduate at 6 p.m. Saturday, June 8, at the school.
The board accepted the resignation of longtime Mountain Valley High School guidance counselor James Ippolito, who is retiring, effective the end of the school year.