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Originally published in Castine Patriot, February 13, 2014
Castine school board previews 2014-15 budget
2.5 percent increase “would be a goal”

by Anne Berleant

A first draft budget for the 2014-15 school year shows a 3.4 percent or $46,944 increase, for a total of $1,434,418.

“It’s a good looking budget to come right out of the door,” said Joe Spinazola at the school board’s February 7 meeting. “[It’s] the tightest since I’ve been here, in 12 years.”

“Very little was added to it,” said Superintendent Mark Hurvitt. “We don’t want to set alarm bells off in town.”

Member Temple Blackwood suggested that “2.5 percent would be a goal,” to general agreement among the board.

High school tuition, responsible for sizable budget increases the past two years, remains static at $282,167 for 28 students, a 1.7 percent or $489 increase.

“We’re lucky,” said Spinazola.

The board, as usual, included an extra tuition of $9,670 to accommodate enrollment changes.

Special education, governed by federal law, is up 4.3 percent or $7,051, for a total of $170,853. Other fixed costs are teacher health insurance increases, estimated at $6,624, and new, state-mandated increases of local contributions for the teacher retirement benefits, estimated at $10,412.

Balancing these increases is the operations and maintenance budget, down 2.61 percent or $2,922. The $109,170 total budget still allows $12,000 for exterior painting, $3,500 for work on the front steps and front hallway and a 15 percent or $2,000 increase for heating oil. The decrease is a result of a high increase last year to paint and repair the tower and for a front door buzzer system and external security cameras.

School committee services are up 62 percent or $4,408, resulting from $2,500 more for professional services such as legal and audit and $1,800 for board stipends, a new budget provision.

“After not being able to find someone to run against me,” said Temple Blackwood, adding a $500 stipend for board members ($600 for chairman) “may cause someone to be willing to run.”

Spinazola said the stipend will cover gas, “if not mileage” expenses.

The budget does not yet include staff raises, usually 2 percent, or a raise for Teaching Principal Katie Frothingham, which the board unanimously approved later in the meeting at $2,655 or 3.8 percent, to increase her salary to $72,000 for 2014-15.

Frothingham requested money be added to the budget for laptops or ThinkPads to replace ones used by fifth and sixth graders, but “didn’t put in a wish list.”

Blackwood suggested contacting Maine Maritime Academy for laptops or ThinkPads the academy is ready to discard. “We may get 20 every year,” he said.

In other business, Chairman Kathryn MacArthur submitted an application to the Castine Historical Preservation Commission for a permit to mount external security cameras at the school. It will be on their March agenda, she said. New external lights for the front entrance have arrived to replace those purchased last summer, which did not meet historical preservation ordinance guidelines.

School budget work session: Wednesday, February 26, 5 p.m., Adams School.

School board meeting: Wednesday, March 5, 5 p.m., Adams School.