IT drives budget hike



BAR HARBOR — Information technology (IT) accounts for nearly half of the $95,460 increase in the budget for the Mount Desert Island Regional School System (MDIRSS) central office and shared services for next year.

The $1.6 million budget, approved unanimously by the MDIRSS board last week, is 6.36 percent higher than the budget for the current year.

Josh Young, educational technology coordinator for the school system, is the only full-time member of the IT department. Wendell Oppewall, district IT manager, works one day a week. And Elaine Eaton’s job as district IT specialist is a half-time position.

The new budget will allow Oppewall to double his time to two days a week. Eaton’s job will increase to 75 percent of full time.

“These extra hours will allow Josh to spend a day each week in schools supporting teachers,” Superintendent Howard Colter explained. “Wendell will be able to get to schools twice as much.”

He said that is important because the technology personnel in some of the schools may be “more skilled in helping students and teachers use technology, not fix it.”

Colter said Eaton would be able to spend more time “gathering data and working on grants and reports for our schools.”

Julie Meltzer, the school system’s director of curriculum, assessment and instruction, said the changes were prompted by the ever-increasing role of IT in education.

“We wanted to put in place a central office team that could be much more supportive of all of the schools and allow the IT integrators at the individual schools to focus more on teaching and learning,” she said.

Young, the school system’s educational technology coordinator, said the need for IT support for education will continue to grow.

“We can see that coming, and we want to try to address it with current staff, keeping budgets in mind, by just trying to utilize them much more efficiently,” he said.

Increases in salaries and health insurance costs account for all of the $44,165 increase in IT spending for next year.

Much of the $51,295 increase in the rest of the MDIRSS budget is attributable to cost-of-living salary increases and higher benefit costs. The MDIRSS budget funds the superintendent’s office as well as system-wide special education services including psychological counseling, social work and occupational therapy.

The budget for next year also includes $10,000 to cover costs associated with the search for a new superintendent. Colter has said he plans to retire at the end of the 2015-2016 school year.

Just under 29 percent of the MDIRSS budget will be paid by MDI High School, which, in turn, is funded largely by taxpayers in the four MDI towns. In addition, those towns and the other four towns in the district will see their assessments rise next year.

Assessments are based on the relative size of the student population, staff and budget of each school in the district.

Bar Harbor, which is responsible for 22.5 percent of the MDIRSS budget, will have an assessment increase of $14,268 (5 percent). Mount Desert will see an assessment hike of $15,131 (10.2 percent). Southwest Harbor’s increase will be $7,584 (5.9 percent). Tremont’s assessment will go up by $5,607 (5 percent).

The rise in MDIRSS assessments for the four other towns in the district are Trenton, $13,087 (10.1 percent); Swans Island, $2,217 (4.8 percent); Cranberry Isles,$1,428 (6.2 percent); and Frenchboro, $741 (5.8 percent).

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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