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News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, April 10, 2014
Castine school board keeps 2014-15 budget increase under 3 percent

by Anne Berleant

School board members approved a 2014-15 school budget of $1,426,404 on March 13 that shows an increase of 2.8 percent or $38,930 from the current year.

“There wasn’t very much to add to the budget,” said Chairman Kathy MacArthur. “We tried to keep essential programs in place.”

Sharp rises in teacher health insurance and retirement costs and a bump in special education costs are behind the increase.

Special education costs, which lie outside board control, are up 6 percent or $8,570 for a total of $149,750.

A projected 9-percent hike in health insurance costs and a new state requirement that shifts teacher retirement contributions from the state to the local school district account for $19,630 and are behind the 3.7 percent rise in the elementary education program line, which stands at $550,481.

Secondary tuition, which saw sharp increases in recent years, is down just under 1 percent or $3,054, despite the state now requiring a local contribution toward George Stevens Academy teacher retirement costs. For Castine, that means $2,533. Total secondary education costs are $278,623.

After completing essential repairs and painting to the building over 2013-14, the operations and maintenance line has dropped as a result. It is down 11.5 percent or $12,973 for a total of $99,120.

“We’re going to continue to pick away at maintenance issues, but there aren’t necessarily any large ticket items that we know of at this point,” said MacArthur.

Educational field trips, which other area schools of similar size budget from $1,000 (Penobscot) to $3,500 (Brooksville), are set at $500, up from $200. Extra- and co-curricular costs remain flat, outside of a $380 request for a score board.

“The staff did a very good job bringing us what they needed and not…the extras,” said MacArthur.

The principal’s office does reflect a 5.8 percent or $4,226 increase, spread across salaries, insurance, communication costs—and professional development, which is set at $2,100 (a 31-percent increase), with associated travel costs adding another $1,000. The principal’s position is set at 25 percent position, with teaching accounting for 75 percent of the position.

In other business, on April 2 the board approved hiring Denny Colson as bus driver after the previous driver left the position. He started April 1.

Upcoming meetings

Union 93 board, April 30, 5:30 p.m., Penobscot Community School

Castine School Board, Wednesday, May 7, 5 p.m., Adams School