Draft of Ellsworth school budget up $1.47 million

ELLSWORTH — A draft shows the Ellsworth school budget up 7.22 percent.

The local impact is higher — a 9.7 percent increase over the current year.

The total budget, which is split between Ellsworth and the state, is up $1.47 million, over the 2017-2018 school year.

The Ellsworth School Board will meet Thursday, April 26 for a discussion of the spending plan.

Superintendent Dan Higgins made his initial presentation of the budget to School Board members at a meeting on April 10. The board took no action at that time.

Education costs are split between the state and municipality. Ellsworth’s share of the total proposed $22,114,504 budget would be $12,144,711, a 9.7 percent increase at the local level.

Higgins noted that it is likely there will be changes when the numbers are presented to voters, but said the draft is “reflective of everything that we are looking at in terms of our vision and mission.”

Ellsworth’s share of the fiscal year 2017 school budget was $11,067,393, which was flat-funded from 2016.

“A budget presentation is a reflection of your priorities for your school system,” Higgins told the board.

The budget will be presented to the Ellsworth City Council on April 30 for review.

The final version will go to voters on June 12.

The proposed increases are largely due to staffing needs and facilities maintenance, Higgins said.

The draft budget also allocates funding for several security measures, including installing card readers on some interior school doors.

Other items included in the draft budget are:

  • Funding for a full-time licensed clinical social worker at Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School, a full-time information technology staff person and a full-time “math interventionist” position. Higgins told the board the math interventionist would help to “increase our achievement,” noting, “We know that our math scores are not where we’d like them to be.”
  • The department is seeking to add two “security positions” at both Ellsworth school buildings. The positions, which would involve a part-time staff person at the main office to check in visitors, would cost $14,000, funding that would cover three hours per day at each school.
  • Three new regular instruction positions: a kindergarten teacher, a fourth grade teacher and a Section 504 teacher for students with special needs, at a total cost of $178,000.
  • Five new kindergarten-level education technology positions to accommodate enrollment increases at a cost of $150,000.
  • A full-time math and science teacher at Hancock County Technical Center. At the moment, Higgins told the board, teachers from Ellsworth High School are traveling back and forth (2.3 miles) to fill the need. Higgins added that keeping teachers at the high school would enable some previously eliminated electives to be restored.
  • Expansion and resurfacing of the parking area at Hancock County Technical Center’s Brookside Restaurant. This would come at a cost of $77,000.
  • The department is seeking $35,000 to pay for previous upgrades to wireless connectivity at all three schools as well as costs associated with Spectrum’s purchase of Time Warner Cable.
  • Athletic field irrigation systems at a cost of $126,000 and replacement of rubber chips on the EEMS playground with cedar chips, which would cost $17,000. Higgins stressed that the change to wood chips was something he did not want to see come out of the budget. “To me that needs to be a priority,” he said, adding that the rubber chips have been shown to be carcinogenic and bad for the environment.
  • The department is also seeking $87,000 to add a school bus to the fleet along with three new positions — a full-time mechanic and two bus drivers.

“I think it’s a demonstration of where our priorities are as a school system to continue to have us moving forward towards our ultimate goal,” Higgins told the board.

On the revenue side of the equation, Higgins told the board that the department is still waiting for information on how Hancock County Technical Center will be funded. The department is slated to receive $1.24 million to support technical center programming in 2018-2019. The proposed budget for that portion of the school system is $1.77 million, Higgins said.

“We’re looking at a $540,000 gap between the amount of money coming from the state and the amount of money projected to operate that program adequately and appropriately.”

Higgins said the department is considering a model in which the gap would be covered by charging tuition to schools that send students to the center. The tuition price would be calculated based on the school’s projected enrollment, the $540,000 gap, and the number of students from each sending school.

“It would be a completely equitable sharing,” Higgins said.

In other School Department news, officials are slated to have a second meeting on April 27 with law enforcement officials from across Hancock County, including the Maine State Police, to discuss emergency management. The first meeting, which took place on April 2, was focused on “scenarios involving an active intruder,” Higgins said.

Tristan Warner, a 2005 Ellsworth High School graduate, presented the board with information on the national “Stop the Bleed” program. The initiative, launched by the White House in 2005, is aimed at training professionals and laypersons “to administer simple medical care to victims that stops hemorrhaging.”

“I think it’s something that is good for the toolbox,” said Warner, adding that the group is looking to fundraise alongside Healthy Acadia and eventually provide free training to area schools.

The School Department is hiring for several positions at the elementary and high school levels. At Ellsworth High School, officials are looking for a science teacher and a library media specialist. At Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School, the open positions are for a physical education teacher and an eighth grade teacher focused on social studies and science. The search is also on for a candidate to replace Jim Newett, who has been principal of Ellsworth Middle School for 29 years and is set to retire in June.

Kate Cough

Kate Cough

Digital Media Strategist
Kate is the paper's Digital Media Strategist, responsible for all things social, and the occasional story too! She's a former reporter for the paper and can be reached at: [email protected]
Kate Cough

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