School system budget passes

BAR HARBOR — A $1.75 million budget for the Mount Desert Island Regional School System (MDIRSS) central office for next year was approved by voters at the system’s annual meeting Monday night at MDI High School.

The vote on the overall budget was 40-9.

Although all legal residents of the eight towns with MDIRSS schools were eligible to vote, a majority of those who attended the meeting and voted were affiliated with the schools. That included 22 members of the MDIRSS board, which had unanimously recommended passage of the budget, and 11 administrators, including the superintendent and four school principals.

The budget for next year, which covers the superintendent’s office and services shared by all of the schools in the system, is 9.57 percent higher than the current year’s budget. However, the total amount that the eight towns will be assessed is up 12.73 percent because of the shifting of some costs between the school system and the individual schools.

In addition to increases in salaries and benefits for administrators and support staff, the central office budget includes $41,820 for a half-time position to help coordinate the school system’s “response to intervention” (RTI) and assessment functions.

RTI is an approach to identifying and supporting students with learning difficulties. The assessment part of the job involves developing achievement standards and following up to see if students are meeting them.

The new budget also supports an increase in the workweek for a member of the information technology staff from 30 to 40 hours.

“We also have adjusted some salaries in the technology department so that people with equal job responsibilities, though different jobs, will be paid equitably and equally,” Superintendent Howard Colter said. “We had a situation where that wasn’t the case, and we felt that’s just not right.”

Colter plans to retire at the end of this school year, and the school board has begun a search for his successor. Next year’s budget calls for increasing the superintendent’s salary by about $10,000 to $135,000.

Colter said he and the school board felt that increase was needed to help attract the most highly qualified candidates. He said that, in general, superintendent salaries in Maine are the lowest in the region.

“If we are going to draw people not only from Maine, but beyond Maine, we wanted a salary that was more in line with what is being offered in neighboring states,” he said.

School board Chairman Charlie Wray said the extra $10,000 would give the board “wiggle room, depending on whether we get a very senior superintendent as a candidate and need to make an offer above the current salary. That doesn’t mean we’ll use it.”

But Bar Harbor Town Council member David Bowden said that if the $10,000 is in the budget, whoever is offered the job of superintendent will want it.

“Anybody who is applying for this job will look at the minutes of the school board [meetings] and everything and will know there’s $10,000 there to negotiate,” Bowden said. “And that person will negotiate that.”

Bowden and fellow Bar Harbor Town Council member Peter St. Germaine voted against the school system central office budget for next year. The nine people voting against it also included Southwest Harbor Selectmen Lydia Goetze, George Jellison and Dan Norwood.

Southwest Harbor Warrant Committee member Nancy Weingarten expressed opposition to the size of the budget increase, which will be borne by taxpayers in the individual towns.

“This is really a lot, more than many people would be able to stomach,” she said.

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]
Dick Broom

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