Trenton School Committee talks solar, preliminary budget



TRENTON — How should the Trenton community address the school’s roof that needs repairs? Should repairs include incorporating solar technology? What is next year’s budget beginning to look like?

These were some of the discussion topics at the Jan. 12 Trenton School Committee meeting held via Zoom and made available to the public via YouTube.

“If we’re going to do solar, we ought to do the roof,” said Alternative Organizational Structure 91 (AOS 91) Superintendent Marc Gousse. “The key question is what do the citizens want to do with the roof?” Gousse noted that if the town did not want to fix the roof, solar technology could still be implemented at the school. At Mount Desert Island High School, solar technology was added for, “$0 down,” he said. “And we’re reaping the benefits of that already.”

The School Committee tabled further discussion on the topic so that Trenton Elementary School Principal Mike Zboray could reach out to Trenton resident Michael Gilmartin, who has been a “driving force” for the school to incorporate solar, according to Zboray. Gilmartin attended the Dec. 15 Board of Selectmen meeting where the selectmen unanimously decided fixing the roof and incorporating solar technology was a priority if the School Committee decided to include it in next year’s budget.

Gilmartin also sent a letter to the School Committee last December stating that “the money being lost on electricity along with the increase in the cost of the roof repair is mounting every year we fail to act.” At last Tuesday’s meeting, School Committee Chairwoman Jennifer Bonilla said, “We definitely need to get some numbers in so we can take a look at [solar],” to begin the budgeting and bidding process.

Discussion at the meeting also focused largely on the preliminary budget for the 2021-22 year. As Zboray shared early figures, he said the process to develop next year’s budget will require several drafts, “as we move along and think about our needs and think about the impact of the budget on the community.” The draft he shared amounts to $4,412,067, which represents a 3.54 percent increase.

Zboray also shared another grand total that includes items he would like to add, such as potential roof costs and making the school’s technology instructor full-time again. He also would like to increase the school nurse’s hours and salary. “During this time, she has been incredibly helpful” when addressing COVID-19 needs, he said. “I don’t see [those needs] decreasing.” Those extra items would bring the budget to $4,544,990, a 6.6 percent increase.

Nancy Thurlow, business manager for AOS 91, explained that the School Committee should consider banking $150,000 of this year’s carry-forward to avoid a budgetary “cliff” and “save some of that [carry-forward] to help the taxes in the next year.” The school has a large carry-forward due to the coronavirus pandemic.  “We weren’t able to do certain projects or there were certain costs that did not amount to what we thought it would,” Thurlow said.

Gousse said other budget variables to consider are collective bargaining agreements and insurance costs. “We want to work with everybody to make sure that we can have a collaborative process and do what’s best for our kids while being conscious of the resources in our communities,” he added.  “The citizens of Trenton have an outstanding school,” he said, calling the school a “beacon.”

Bonilla then noted that Gateway Estates, LLC will have a hearing before the Planning Board regarding its application to construct 12 more family units in the town. “We’re talking about … another 12 families with kids coming into our town,” she said.

The hearing is scheduled for Jan. 27. Details to attend the meeting are available on the town’s website.

Rebecca Alley

Rebecca Alley

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Rebecca is the Schoodic-area reporter and covers the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor and Trenton. She lives in Ellsworth with her husband and baby boy who was joyously welcomed in June 2020. Feel free to send tips and story ideas to [email protected]
Rebecca Alley

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