MOUNT DESERT — It’s almost unheard of: A school’s budget is smaller one year than it was the year before.
But that’s the case with Mount Desert Elementary School. Its budget of just under $4.94 million for 2022-2023 is $45,869 less than the amount budgeted for the current year, a decrease of about 0.8 percent.
Some costs will be higher next year. For example, teacher salaries will go up 5.85 percent. And the cost of health insurance for teachers and staff, most of which is borne by the schools, is increasing 4.53 percent.
On the other hand, “The staffing that was required to teach last year was a little bit more than typical because of some of the effects of COVID,” said Mount Desert School Committee Chair Brian Henkel.
Principal Gloria Delsandro wrote in this year’s Town Report, “When Mount Desert Elementary School opened our doors in August 2021, we welcomed nine new kindergarteners, as well as 18 students who were returning from a full year of virtual learning or homeschooling, as well as some students who had recently moved to the town of Mount Desert.”
Staffing was increased, so it doesn’t need to be increased next year. In fact, no one is being hired to replace veteran kindergarten teacher Jackie Wheaton, who is retiring at the end of this school year. That will save the school about $84,000 in salary and benefits.
Mount Desert Elementary will start a pre-kindergarten program in the fall, but that is not expected to involve significant new costs.
“We had wanted to start pre-K sooner, but because of COVID it got shifted. Some of the pre-K preparation work was actually budgeted for and done earlier. So, we’re not taking the full hit in a single year.”
Henkel said the school incurred some building expenses and other costs related to protecting students and staff from COVID.
“By having done that work early on, we are now reaping the benefit.”
Also contributing to a slightly lower budget for the coming year is a $16,243 reduction in debt service payments. The school will retire the debt it took on for a major renovation project in 2002.