Tax hike for high school cut in half

BAR HARBOR — The increase in amount that property owners in the four Mount Desert Island towns will pay to operate MDI High School next year has been reduced by half, from 9.4 percent to 4.7 percent. 

That is because school officials have found areas where spending could be cut or cost projections could be lowered since the school board approved the budget in February. 

“We are able to cut quite a lot of money out of the budget,” Principal Matt Haney told the school board last Monday. “One reason is that we are spending less money because of the current pandemic. 

“We’re also able to cut the budget down because of the timelineWe have way more information now than we did when we had to adopt the budget.” 

Like other schools in the district, the high school had budgeted for a possible 10 percent increase in health insurance costs. School officials have since learned the increase will be 6 percent.  

“The price of fuel is also going to be much less [than anticipated],” Haney said.  

The high school has been spending about $140,000 a year to lease laptops for students. But for the coming year, the state will sell laptops to the school for $50 each, or a total of about $17,000.  

Haney anticipates the school will begin leasing laptops again in the following year, so he doesn’t want to completely deplete the laptop budget. He reduced that budgetline for next year by $40,000. 

The school also will save about $30,000 by deferring the purchase of new classroom furniture. Plans for refinishing the gym floor and hiring a part-time teacher for the Island Pathways programwhich serves students who need more individual guidance and support, also have been put on hold. 

In all, the MDI High budget has been reduced by more than $200,000 to $11.78 million, for a year-to-year budget increase of 4.14 percent. And even that is somewhat misleading. The budget calls for the school to spend $350,000 for an electric bus to replace an old diesel-powered bus. But $280,000 of that cost will be covered by funds the state received from the Volkswagen emissions fraud settlement. So, the actual budget increase for next year is only about 1 percent. 

The assessments to the four MDI towns will be going up more than that, a combined 4.7 percent, because the school expects to carry over about $196,000 less from this this year to next year than the amount of carryover budgeted for the current year. 

The high school board unanimously approved the revised budget last Monday. 


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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