Jessica Valdez, a Sedgwick Elementary School teacher, advocates for pre-K program in the fall. PHOTO BY JENNIFER OSBORN

A new School Union 76 budgeting error revealed

SEDGWICK — Another School Union 76 budgeting error has been discovered.

Interim Superintendent Bob Webster learned Monday that the Sedgwick Elementary School overspent $109,211 during fiscal year 2015.

“The audit shows that the Sedgwick school budget for last year was over-expended beyond what the voters authorized to the tune of $109,211,” Webster said.

Webster said voters will have to be asked to apply a 2015 carryover balance of $108,341 to cover the over expenditure. That leaves a shortfall of $870.

Last week, Webster uncovered a $298,000 overcharge to the towns of Deer Isle and Stonington for their share of education costs this school year.

The Sedgwick shortfall affects a proposed school budget for 2016-17 as well. That budget was built using what former Superintendent Mark Jenkins thought was a six-figure carryover to the next year.

“My predecessor had built in $105,000 of carryover,” Webster explained. “Cash being what it is, you can’t use it twice.”

“When I constructed the revenue page today for tonight’s budget meeting, I removed what was in for the carryover line,” Webster said. “That line is now zero, so that has to come from appropriations from the taxpayers.”

This comes at a time when Sedgwick school officials are considering the launch of a pre-kindergarten program for the 2016-17 school year starting in September.

“I’m not certain what impact that will have on the pre-K program,” Principal Don Buckingham said. “That’s up to the board to determine, if any. I don’t know where that leaves us.”

The Sedgwick School Board was to hold a special budget workshop Tuesday to finalize the budget and vote on it.

The shortfall could have been worse.

Webster recalled the Howland School District overspending its budget by $800,000 a few years ago. He said the town had to get voters to approve borrowing the money to avoid a large hit on taxpayers.

On Jan. 21, members of the Sedgwick School Board and several members of the public gathered at the weekly selectmen’s meeting to discuss a proposal for starting a pre-K at the school in the fall.

Buckingham said the school has the space for the program, which would cost about $50,000 to start. That figure represents salary and benefits for a teacher.

The school has equipment and donations left from recent years when Child and Family Opportunities was operating a Head Start program at the school.

Sedgwick would start the pre-K with eight students. That figure could possible increase to 17 students the following school year.

Teacher Jessica Valdez told the Board of Selectmen that every $1 invested in early childhood education yields $7 in cost savings on special education and other items in the future.

The earlier that learning and behavioral issues are identified, the less time and special education funds are spent, she said.

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.

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