TRENTON — Voters approved the proposed $4,359,588 budget for the Trenton Elementary School June 12 at Town Meeting, which was held outside at the school’s ballfield. Taxpayers will be responsible for paying $3,596,951 of the costs.
The approved budget is a 2.3 percent increase from last year, said Trenton Elementary School Principal Mike Zboray, an increase he said is smaller than years past. He also noted the school received less in state subsidies this year.
“We try to make things as affordable as possible without cutting services,” said School Committee member Aaron Brown.
“So, we keep going up, up, up and I haven’t seen any cost-saving measures,” remarked Susan Sargent.
Sargent earlier this year had circulated a petition to put to town vote the question of whether the town should formulate a plan to withdraw from its current school district, Alternative Organizational Structure 91 (AOS 91).
At the town’s elections held May 17, voters rejected the withdrawal measure 208-121.
At the June 12 meeting, one voter asked if the school was looking to sever ties with KidsPeace, which contracts special education services that the school cannot accommodate.
“The district is working on a two-pronged approach,” Zboray answered, which includes a life skills program being piloted this year in Bar Harbor and a behavior program to be piloted in 2022.
He said the school would stop contracting with KidsPeace if programs are developed within the AOS 91 district.
Discussion also arose regarding whether the district was looking to reorganize from an AOS to a regional school unit (RSU). As explained on the Maine.gov website, an RSU “is a combination of two or more municipalities that pool their educational resources to educate all students.” It includes one school committee that administers K-12 education through a superintendent of schools.
School Committee member Tom Reeve said the committee had not yet discussed such a plan.
“We are going to open it up for communities to participate,” Brown added, to “figure out the best path forward.”
Resident Sue Starr pressed committee members, asking their perspective of the possible change.
School Committee member Gary Burr, who sits on a reorganization committee, said, “We want to look at reorganization,” but that the group had not yet discussed a framework or scope of that reorganization.
He said the group had started talking about a “vague idea” of forming a “nontraditional” RSU, where the town would continue its ownership of the school building, the School Committee would maintain and staff the school and would look to consolidate the district’s central office to make it more efficient.
In other school funding requests, voters rejected an article that would fund $80,000 in repairs to the school’s asphalt roof to prepare the roof for the possibility of installing solar technology.
Zboray explained that the roof was not in critical need of the repairs, but that the solar company, Sundog Solar, recommended the school repair the roof before installing solar panels.
Zboray estimated the roof still had about 15 years left before otherwise needing to be repaired or replaced. Voters expressed they wanted the School Committee to get bids on replacing the roof with a metal roof — which Zboray said costs significantly more money — since metal roofs typically last longer than those made from asphalt.
In other business, voters approved a general government budget of $358,804, with $352,000 to be taken from excise tax revenues, $5,088 raised from taxation and $1,716 taken from employee health insurance contributions.
Additionally, voters authorized “the Board of Selectmen, at their discretion, to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport for shared fire services at a cost not to exceed $50,000.” According to the warrant article, the town would fund half of the cost of employing a full-time firefighter, who would respond to the town and the airport, and be available Monday through Friday. The town’s share of $25,000 would come from its unassigned funds.