SALEM — The MSAD 58 school board approved the budget for fiscal year 2023 during their budget meeting on Tuesday, April 26.
The board needed to approve a budget Tuesday night to meet the deadline for the attorney to prepare budget warrants.
Superintendent Todd Sanders presented two options for Version Eight of the budget.
The district was able to move one position and benefits out of the local taxpayer budget to be funded with federal COVID-19 relief grants, and remove about $30,000 in benefits out of the budget due to “last minute benefits changes”.
This allowed the district to remove $103,982 from the taxpayer budget.
Revision 8A would simply remove those funds from the local budget. The total budget would be $10,146,624, approximately a 7.978 percent increase to the overall budget. Revision 8A would be $205,876 less than the fiscal year 2021 budget.
Revision 8B would see the same $103,982 removed from the taxpayer budget. However, 10 percent of the teacher salary and benefits, for a total of $7,496, would be introduced back into the budget. This was requested by board members Jess Cain and Joe Ford to add funds back into the high school athletics and field trips budget lines, which were reduced in a previous budget version.
Revision 8B would be a total budget of $10,154,120, an approximate increase of 8.058 percent. Revision 8B would be $198,380 less than the fiscal year 2021 budget.
This proposal was considered to be of significant value to the high school students with a relatively small increase to the taxpayer budget.
The district is expected to receive less state funding because of the teacher to student ratio and the increased property tax valuation in the towns. As such, while federal funds were used as a stop-gap measure for the current fiscal year, the district faces a shortfall for the upcoming year.
Major changes have been made in attempts to reduce the operating costs of the district. These include rearranging the district, turning the Strong Elementary School into a district middle school, and shifting Strong elementary students to either Kingfield or Phillips. This move allowed the district to cut a number of teacher positions, saving costs on salaries, benefits, and adjusting the teacher-student ratio.
The board voted, eight to four, in favor of budget 8B.
Barbara Barnes, a school board member from Phillips made a motion to add $25,000 to the district’s legal fees budget, saying that if something happened and the board made a decision to close a school building, they would need that increased budget to address the legal processes.
The board increased the legal fees line from $25,000 to $30,000 for the upcoming fiscal year. The district has spent “way beyond” that sum this year, partially due to personnel issues that required legal services to help resolve.
Board member Sue Pratt, from Strong, stated that the board had about $60,000 in contingency funds and a small increase to the legal fees budget line already, and she felt comfortable that they would have funds if they were needed.
After some discussion and verbal agreement that additional funds may not be necessary, Barnes withdrew her motion.
There will be a district budget meeting, which is currently scheduled for 6 p.m. May 24 at Mount Abram High School.