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News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, June 14, 2012
Accounting change catches Castine school board by surprise
Open positions in French, guidance addressed

by Anne Berleant

An adjustment in the June 30 general fund balance from cash accounting to accrual accounting resulted in a different “carry forward” amount than originally expected, board members learned at their June 6 meeting.

“We should have had a heads up on this,” said member Temple Blackwood. “We shouldn’t have been surprised.”

Superintendent Mark Hurvitt took responsibility for not alerting the board in advance.

The cash accounting system was used to integrate school budget information into the overall town budget information, which ran on a 17-month cycle ending on June 30 (in order to align itself in the future with the school budget cycle of July to June).

The switch back to accrual basis accounting had to be done so the 2012 audit would reflect 12 months of expenses for the 12-month budget. Therefore, expenses incurred by June 30 but not paid until July or August will essentially be attributed to the prior fiscal year. Teacher salaries are one example of this.

The adjustment was done prior to developing the 2012-13 school budget and is reflected in the budget approved at town meeting May 12.

The fiscal year 2011 audit showed a June 30, 2011 cash basis carry forward of $270,374. After adjusting the carry forward for the accrued expenses, the balance forward as of June 30, 2011 was actually $150,330.

Some positive–and tangible—financial news was that the new boiler installed last summer has saved the school about 1,000 gallons of fuel. The fuel oil bid from Gary’s Fuel for 2012-13 is for 3,600 gallons, instead of the previous 4,600 gallons, and the fuel company is carrying a $11,600 credit on the school’s account.

“It shouldn’t be ignored that we had a carryover of that amount,” said Blackwood.

Based on that discussion, member Joe Spinazola withdrew a motion on the table to award the 2012-13 bid to Gary’s Fuel, pending discussion with the company over contract language addressing money left over, in general terms.

The school pays the full bid amount on September 1, and standard procedure is that any left over funds are credited to the next year’s account.

“We’re not banking money with [them],” Blackwood said. “There’s a difference between $1,000 and $11,000.”

The school board also addressed how to meet the curriculum adjustment stemming from town meeting, where voters added funds to the 2012-13 school budget to provide for a one-day-per-week guidance position and restored a second day of instruction to the French program.

With Brooksville Elementary School also seeking to fill identical openings, the board unanimously voted to advertise for one certified French teacher and one certified guidance counselor for both schools, although this does not mean the board is bound to hire the same candidates as Brooksville.

The board also approved Hurvitt to “hire and inform,” for both positions, if necessary, before the July board meeting.

Blackwood also requested that Principal Katie Frothingham be able to articulate “why we’re teaching French” at next year’s town meeting, given the discussion this year over what language should be taught at the school.

Art teacher Deborah Belyea submitted a letter of resignation, Hurvitt said. She is retiring, which leaves a two-day art teacher opening. Custodian Denny Colson’s last day was June 1, and his position is currently being advertised, while a temporary custodian fills that opening.

One open position was filled—Superintendent Mark Hurvitt offered Katrina Dagan the two-day-per-week physical education teacher position to unanimous board approval. Dagan, a Castine resident, has previous experience in schools, and most recently has coached at Maine Maritime Academy. Dagan also helped lead a volunteer after-school recreation program at Adams School this spring. (Dagan is also filling in the same opening at the Penobscot Community School.)

The board next meets on Monday, July 2, at 2:30 p.m., at the school.