BAR HARBOR — The amount of money Mount Desert Island High School is paid to educate students from non-MDI towns is going up, which is good news for district taxpayers.
The state has approved an increase in the tuition rate. So, the amount off-island towns pay for each tuition student at MDI High School is rising from $10,120 to $11,584.
The high school expects to have 125 tuition students next year, the same number as this year. Total tuition revenue will be just under $1.45 million.
Still, that will cover only about 13.5 percent of the high school budget, depending on the final budget figure, while 23 percent of the school’s students live off the island. They come from several towns including Trenton, Hancock, Lamoine and the outer islands.
Residents of the four MDI towns, which jointly own the high school, cover the majority of the school’s budget through property taxes.
Principal Matt Haney has essentially proposed two budgets for next year. One, which he said is “based on not doing anything new or different,” would increase spending by 2.8 percent to $10.4 million. Most of that increase would be for salaries and benefits.
The extra items that Haney would like to add would increase the budget by 5.32 percent to just under $10.7 million.
His wish list, totaling $254,588, includes $70,826 for salary and benefits for a full-time special education coordinator and the same amount for an adult education teacher. It also includes $61,534 to increase from 30 percent to 100 percent the amount of time the school system’s social worker, Edith DuBois, devotes to the high school.
Haney said he also would like to have $20,000 to replace a pickup truck that he described as “old and probably unrepairable” and can’t be driven off school property, and $25,000 to replace the light control board in the theater.
“If it breaks again, we can’t fix it,” he said.
Board Chairman Ingrid Kachmar of Southwest Harbor said she considers the proposed new special education and adult education positions to be especially high priorities, adding the she is “inclined to support” all of Haney’s requested additions to the budget.
Board member Lilea Simis of Bar Harbor said she, too, supports the hiring of a special education coordinator.
“If we truly value the people in the positions that are currently filled, we need to give them more support, or we’re going to lose them,” she said. “And I don’t believe those awesome people are easy to find.
“It seems that in every meeting I sit in, I hear about more and more needs. And we can’t ask people to be complete superheroes for us when they also have families.”
At the same time, she and others said they wanted to be careful not to place an undue burden on taxpayers by increasing the budget more than necessary.
Board member Robin Sue Tapley of Bar Harbor asked if one or more of the proposed new positions could be half-time next year and then possibly full-time in the future.
Haney said he would look into that option, and well as at other possibilities for keeping the budget as lean as possible.
The high school board is to vote on next year’s budget at its Feb. 13 meeting. Then voters from the four MDI towns will be asked to give final approval to the spending plan at the school board’s annual budget meeting in April.