Originally published in The Weekly Packet, March 7, 2019
Sedgwick voters question nonprofit cuts, school increases
Sedgwick voters line up to cast their ballots on the school budget during the annual town meeting Saturday.
by Rich Hewitt
For the most part, voters at the annual town meeting Saturday supported the warrant articles, but not before they questioned several proposals and changed a few.
First up was the question of preserving old town records, which already is under way. The warrant article asked voters to take $5,000 from surplus for the project. The price didn’t seem to faze them, and once they had determined that it will take an estimated $30,000 over the next five or six years to complete, they focused on what the preservation efforts were doing.
Several residents pressed selectmen on whether they were digitizing the records or preserving the documents themselves.
Although selectmen have discussed the possibility of digitizing the records, Selectman Mike Sheahan said there are no plans to do so. He indicated it would be expensive to digitize the documents, some of which date back to the founding of the town.
Voters also took a hard look at requests from third-party, nonprofit organizations. Each of the warrant articles included the amount requested by each organization, but in many cases, the budget committee had recommended an amount lower than that requested. In some instances, the recommendation was to raise no money.
In response to questions, budget committee member Leslie Schneider said that for each request the committee considered several factors including other funding sources, the number of local people served and the organization’s impact on the community.
Although it took some time and occasionally involved some parliamentary procedural questions, voters reviewed each request and eventually funded the full request for such groups as WHCA, Hancock County Homecare & Hospice, Blue Hill Public Library, Health Equity Alliance and Emmaus.
In response to questions from the floor, Superintendent of Schools Chris Elkington outlined some of the major increases in the school budget. Those increases came in areas such as Special Education, a 12.7 percent increase, the result of additional high school students requiring services and the addition of a staff member at the elementary school; Other Instruction, up 22 percent, reflecting an increased emphasis on summer school programming; Student and Staff Support, up 15.6 percent, for a new one-day a week tech teacher and additional teacher training; and Transportation, up 17.4 percent, reflecting additional students attending classes at Hancock County Technical Center in Ellsworth and busing for the summer school program.
Although the total $2.5 million school budget was up almost 4 percent over the 2018 budget, Elkington said the school expects to receive additional state funding that will offset some of that increase so the increase to taxpayers will be about 2 percent.
Despite the questions, voters approved the budget.
In a separate article, voters allocated $6,626 for an adult education program. Elkington said the program was separate from the school budget and the school board planned to tap into the existing program run in the Deer Isle-Stonington district. Although residents can participate in that program, Elkington said they hoped to offer additional programs in Sedgwick.
Some opposed the program, not on its merits, but because the taxpayers were being asked to fund. One man said he did not think the burden should be placed on taxpayers. Others, however, argued that this type of investment was an investment in the community. Don Buckingham, a former principal at the school, reminded voters that the mission of the school when it was built was to be for the benefit of both children and adults. He said the program would be “a godsend for people trying to improve themselves and their education.”
Elkington said the school will survey the community to determine what types of programs residents would like to see.
One question arose even before the meeting began. In voting on Friday, Sommer Anderson was elected to both a three-year term and a two-year term on the school committee. In response to questions about how that would be handled, Town Clerk Cindy Reilly said Anderson would choose which term she would serve. The school committee then would have 30 days to appoint someone to fill the other seat for one year. That seat would be filled by another election at the 2020 town meeting.
*Bob Publicover 104
*Cindy Reilly 109
Paul Carter 100
School committee, 3-year, two seats
Marti Brill 80
*Sommer Anderson 63
Kelly Samperi 38
Beth Sullivan 22
School Committee, 2-year, one seat
Sommer Anderson 70
Joanne Hardy 34