RSU 9 board receives updates on budget, solar credits and the Success & Innovation Center

first_imgFARMINGTON – Directors on the Regional School Unit 9 school board reviewed some initial financial data as well as heard two presentations that could impact the upcoming budget process.The board intends to again rely on a committee of directors to develop a preliminary budget that will then be presented to the entire board. This process was used last year, concluding with voters approving a $37.1 million budget at the validation referendum in June 2019.Valuation and enrollment numbers favor the district as far as receiving additional state subsidy, Superintendent Tina Meserve told the board. While the state showed slight increases in the district town valuation figures, less than 1 percent, the state average increased by 3 percent. State enrollment numbers were basically flat compared to last year, while the district’s enrollment increased again, by 1 percent. Meserve said that the district’s combination of greater enrollment and lower valuation increases, as compared to the state, could result in increased subsidy.Other increases include funds connected to RSU 9 joining a regional service center last year – the district anticipates an additional $226,000 in state subsidy – as well as a proposed increase in per pupil funding from the state for administration, another $213,000 if the proposed governor’s budget moves forward. The district also expects to lock in to an extremely cheap price for heating oil, a savings of roughly $13,000 as compared to the current fiscal year and potentially more if schools burn more oil and fewer wood pellets this winter.Another potential savings may relate to electricity costs. ReVision, the largest installer of solar power in New England, has approached RSU 9 about purchasing Net Energy Billing Credits that would offset the district’s Central Maine Power bill, a $550,000 per year expense. ReVision has previously approached MSAD 28, in the Camden/Rockport area, as well as RSU 73 in Jay/Livermore Falls in an effort to sell credits associated with the $9 million solar power project being constructed in Livermore Falls.The credits would cover the cost of 90 percent of the district’s electricity needs over a 20-year period, a savings of approximately $115,821 a year.Directors voted unanimously to review the contract with their attorney.Budget increases include raises for staff and increases in insurance costs. A major unknown is funding for the Foster Career and Technical Education Center, an element of school budgets that has changed repeatedly over the past couple of years. Business Manager Kris Pottle told the board that the district would likely not know how much money it would receive to run those programs until the state subsidy estimates at published later this year.This year’s budget will also be the first to include an $80,000 expenditure as part of a five-year “phase in” plan to deal with summer accruals. That process will accommodate an auditors’ request to eliminate what they see as an unfunded liability.Another potential cost would be funding the Mt. Blue High School’s Success & Innovation Center. The center provides a place for students to come to get help on projects, help accessing resources for specific problems or just help coping with day-to-day life. Teacher Dan Ryder, who staffs the center with Dana Dowling, an ed tech, told the board that while students may come in for assistance with a specific project or program, they may actually need a lot more help.“It’s a place where anyone can come for help,” Ryder said. “But we try to make sure they come back.”The center has access to a wide range of resources, ranging from 3D printers and other technical equipment to food and hygiene products for students. In the first semester of this school year, the SIC met with a little more than half of the student body at Mt. Blue High School, Ryder said, including visitors to the center as well as Ryder working directly with other teachers on specific classrooms.Principal Monique Poulin said that the SIC was an intervention program for students that otherwise might struggle to complete high school programs.The SIC has been funded through a GEAR Up grant for three years, but that will come to an end at the conclusion of this school year. Continuing to run the SIC would require funding one teaching and one ed tech III position in the local budget; Ryder said that he was confident that he could find grants and donations to meet the SIC’s supply costs.last_img read more