FARMINGTON – At the RSU 9 Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday, April 25, the board reviewed and adopted the budget for the 2023-2024 school year after seven weeks of drafting.
The total budget cost for 23-24 will be $41,710,668, which has been adjusted from the initially proposed budget of $42,028,772. During the board discussion, Director J. Wayne Kinney asked Superintendent Christian Elkington if could elaborate on the raised issues surrounding the funding for a second full-time nursing position and wondered if there would be a way to fast track the situation in case vacancies needed to be filled.
Elkington stated that he recently spoke to a member of the nursing team concerning the issue, and one question that was brought up was in regards to filling these positions.
“They feel that it is so important to have a qualified nurse that they don’t take personal days and come to work sick, and part of the reason is that it’s sometimes very difficult for them to find a qualified replacement,” Elkington said. “We had the advantage right now for this year and last year that we had extra nursing support to be able to fill in at another building when needed.”
Elkington mentioned that there are ways to attract nurses from hospitals in the area to substitute, but there are many certifications that are required that make the process difficult. It was also stated that the amount they pay for a nurse substitute may not be something that they would look upon as a positive, and it is something the board would have to look at increasing.
Director Libby Kaut asked Elkington if there was any room in the budget for permanent substitute teachers, as there were requests during previous meetings for the addition of these permanent positions. However, Elkington informed the board that they were not able to fit permanent substitutes into the budget that were not already a part of regular funding.
During public comments, Kindergarten teacher Courtney Schools from the Cape Cod Hill School spoke to the board in regards to a third-grade teaching position that is being vacated and will not be filled. Schools stated that this will take the current teaching staff from 11 to 10, causing a potential of only having one teacher at one grade level along with looking at classrooms being filled with over 20 students.
Schools also explained that this impact could also result in the need for a multi-grade teaching position. This would require a teacher to split themselves between two grade levels, along with the need of learning two curriculums while earning one salary. Schools added that during her time teaching a multi-grade she was previously assigned an Ed-Tech, but the current multi-grade teacher does not have the assistance of an Ed-Tech.
“It is extremely difficult to teach a multi-grade if you are not assigned an Ed-Tech,” Schools stated. “So if that is going to be something that is going to continue, that’s a further concern of mine.”
Elkington responded by saying the teaching staff will be decreasing from 12-11 rather than from 11-10, and that CCHS currently has the smallest classroom size in the district.
“I’m not going to disagree that it’s not going to be a change, but every year we look at these numbers and that was the decision that was made,” Elkington said.
After further discussion, Schools clarified by stating the class size for kindergarten would be increasing to 20 students. Elkington informed the board that if this is the case, the district is required by policy to assign an Ed-Tech to the class. This potential cost was not included in the budget, and the school will need to determine where those adjustments will be made.
The board voted on seven separate motions so the Articles can be approved for next week’s meeting. The first motion was made to set the 2023-24 Mt. Blue Regional School District budget amount at $41,710,668, and the second motion was to set the Franklin County Adult Basic Education budget amount at $267,723. The board voted to approve the motions with Director Charles Hinds opposing the first motion.
The third motion was made to set the annual budget meeting for Tuesday, May 23 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at Mt. Blue Campus, the fourth motion was to set the budget validation referendum for Tuesday, June 13, 2023, and the fifth motion was made to have open articles at the May 23 annual budget meeting, all of which were approved unanimously by the board.
The sixth motion was made to add an additional article to the Annual Budget Meeting warrant that allows authorization of the board to use all or part of any additional state subsidy to increase expenditures for school purposes in cost center categories approved by the board, increase the allocation of finances in a reserve fund approved by the board and/or decrease the local cost-share expectation as defined by Title 20-A., section 15671-A(1)(B) for local property taxpayers for funding public education as approved by the board. This was approved by the board with Directors Alexander Creznic and Charles Hinds opposing the motion.
The last motion was made to add an additional article to the annual budget meeting warrant that allows authorization of the board to transfer amounts exceeding 5% of the total appropriation for any cost center to another cost center or among other cost centers for the 2023-24 fiscal year, provided that the transfers shall not be permitted to increase the authorized total school budget. This was approved unanimously by the board.
On May 2, there will a Special School Board meeting at 6:30 p.m. where board members will sign the warrants to go out to the communities.
This meeting was recorded by Mt. Blue TV and is available for viewing online at MtBlueTV.org