SALEM TOWNSHIP – More than eighty residents voted on the proposed 2023-2024 school budget for MSAD 58 Tuesday night. The budget passed with a reduction of $30,000. The final vote to adopt the budget will take place in each town on Tuesday, June 13, 2023.
Residents from Avon, Kingfield, Phillips, and Strong attended to vote, along with residents of the unorganized territories and school district administrators. Tom Saviello served as the meeting moderator and swore in the town clerks for Avon, Kingfield, Phillips, and Strong to serve as the ballot clerks for the meeting. Board members Joanne Bachelder, Kim Jordan, Brian Donovan, Adam Bilodeau, Paul Orbeton, Jess Cain, Joe Ford, Kathleen Doyon, and Jessie Stinchfield represented the board.
In discussion on the first article, which asked what sum would be raised for regular instruction, a Kingfield resident expressed concerns over the increase in the budget, stating that allowing a ten-percent increase would be ‘kicking the can down the road.’ The resident said that the towns needed to look at the budget and decide what services and programs to continue to offer, and asked if any part of the proposed budget supported the ‘transgender agenda.’ This question was not answered.
A motion was made for the amount recommended by the school board, $3,256,647. A request was made to vote by written ballot and the moderator accepted the request. The vote was decisive with 75 in favor of the school board recommendation and eight opposed.
A strong contingent voted in favor of the school board recommendations for articles two through eight, with a minority opposing the recommended amounts. There was minimal discussion on these articles.
Board member Sue Pratt moved article nine, to see what sum would be raised for the Facilities and Maintenance Budget, for $55,000 less than the school board recommendation. The budget included funds to purchase two smaller tractors to be used for snow removal, field maintenance, and other purposes. The reduction would allow one tractor to be purchased instead of two.
Article nine went to a written ballot vote as well, with 19 in favor of the reduced sum and 62 opposed. A motion was made for the full school board recommendation and this motion passed by a majority, approving the budget with funds for both tractors.
Article 10, for debt service and other commitments, passed for the recommended sum of $0. The debt service requests are included in Cost Center Nine.
The school board recommended $135,307 for Article 11, all other expenditures. Pratt made a motion for $105,307, stating that the reduction of $30,000 reflected the difference between contracted services for the food service director and a salaried position. Currently, the district contracts for the food service director position, which costs less as the district does not have to pay benefits and wages on the regular pay scale.
This motion passed by a written ballot with 42 in favor of the reduction and 38 opposed.
The reduction of $30,000 was followed through in the following articles and the budget passed for a total of $11,533,037.
The final article, which allows the board to receive grant funds and other donations and use those for district expenses that do not require additional budgeted funds, raised questions about how the funds would be used, and how parents could provide feedback if funds would be used for programs they disagreed with. It was noted that if the voters did not support the article, the board would not be able to accept grant funds from the Carrabassett School District or other sources. Parents and stakeholders were encouraged to attend board meetings to give feedback on programs and other issues. Ultimately, the article passed unanimously.
The budget represents an increase of approximately 13.956%, for a local taxpayer increase of approximately 7.46%. Kingfield will see the highest percentage increase, approximately 10%, due to higher property valuation. Nearby RSU 9 is looking at a proposed local increase of 5.63% compared to 7.46% for MSAD 58 in the 23-24 fiscal year.
Over the last three years the district has used federal funds for regular budget expenses to reduce the tax burden during the pandemic. Superintendent Todd Sanders wrote in a letter to the district that the proposed budget increases reflect an average increase of 3.3% over the last three years, but due to the use of COVID-19 relief funds, the increase is coming all at once. This ‘cliff’ is expected to be a one-time occurrence as the local budget catches up with the increases, and Sanders believes that next year’s budget should see a moderate increase.
The budget will go to the local towns for a referendum vote on Tuesday, June 13.
For more information on the budget, visit MSAD58.org