SOUTHWEST HARBOR — School officials presented their proposed $3.57 million budget for the Pemetic Elementary School to selectmen on Tuesday.
The budget for the 2017-2018 school year is $102,978 higher than for this year, a 2.97 percent increase. Voters will consider the proposed budget at the May 1 open town meeting.
Like with all schools in the Mount Desert Island Regional School System, salary increases and health insurance costs have gone up. Salaries, as negotiated under a union contract with teachers, have increased an average of 2.65 percent system-wide, according to Nancy Thurlow, business manager for the school system. The increase in the school’s share of the cost of health insurance for employees has been budgeted at 10 percent, although the exact amount won’t be known until the spring, Thurlow said.
About $39,300 of the increase is in the budget lines for administration. The major change here is salary and cost of health insurance and other benefits for the principal. Principal Cathy Lewis, who is retiring at the end of the school year, has been working in an 80 percent capacity. An additional $37,119 has been added to cover the switch back to a full-time principal, a step that school system Superintendent Marc Gousse said was more appropriate for a school like Pemetic.
The proposed $1.08 million for regular instruction reflects a decrease of $19,200, due to changes in personnel, school officials said. Teachers’ salaries are based on experience, and health insurance costs vary depending on which plan the employee falls under.
Special education costs have been budgeted at $904,700, an increase of $122,900. Salaries and health insurance for teachers and ed techs are the driving factors here. Some of the extra cost is due to changes in personnel, Thurlow said.
Heating oil, which for this year was 98 cents per gallon, has been budgeted at $2 per gallon, adding $8,330 to that line. Thurlow said she has received bids and expects the final cost to be more like $1.90 per gallon.
Gousse assured selectmen that the school system is looking at ways for schools to cut costs through the sharing of some services.
“There’s a whole host of things we can do collectively without changing the identities of our individual schools,” he said. “We know resources aren’t unlimited.”
One item that didn’t get in the Pemetic budget was a request from Town Manager Don Lagrange for the school to help fund the future construction of a new town garage. The school uses the garage to store its school buses. School committee member Ingrid Wilbur Kachmar said the school has other needs for its reserve funds.
“We are respectfully saying ‘no, we’re not’,” she said.
Her remarks elicited a strong response from Tom Benson, chairman of the Board of Selectmen. If that is the case, he said, “We’ll consider if there will be a bus garage or not.”