BELFAST - The Regional School Unit 20 finance committee on Wednesday approved revisions to the 2013-14 budget, settling on a bottom line midway between the board's original austere budget and a costlier version approved a public budget meeting in May, then rejected at a referendum earlier this month.
A public hearing on the final amount is scheduled to be held on July 22.
Superintendent Brian Carpenter proposed two options to the board on June 25. The finance committee started with the larger of the two, which would have increased the district's budget by 1.42-percent over last year and resulted in an increase in the local share of 14.7-percent. Many but not all of the teacher and staff cuts that proved contentious at the public budget meeting were added back in under this option.
A second option presented by the superintendent took the board's original budget as a starting point and made some additional cuts, putting the bottom line 0.6 percent below last year's total with an increase in the local share of 11.3-percent.
The combination of a smaller — or minimally larger — budget and a large tax increase comes as a result of a loss of state funding, both in General Purpose Aid for current RSU 20 schools and as a loss of subsidies for Frankfort, which left the district this year to join neighboring MSAD 22.
The superintendent's budget added back in the School Resource Officer, which was cut in the board's initial budget. Art teachers at Troy Howard Middle School and Searsport District Middle and High Schools and one elementary school were also added back, but one full time art teacher at Belfast Area High School was not. Most of the library ed tech positions were reinstated, as was a line for Middle School extra- and co-curricular activities.
The superintendent added back $150,000 for supplies and two secretarial positions in Belfast, but the finance committee cut supply line back to $100,000 and struck both secretarial positions before signing off on the bottom line.
Additional figures in the budget include the elimination of the athletic director position. The current director has resigned and is not being replaced. Carpenter said he has spoken to assistant principals in Belfast and the dean of students in Searsport about taking on those duties. Carpeter also announced a reorganization in the central office that will result in the elimination of 1.5 position and savings of roughly $50,000.
Carpenter said the final figure will roughly split the difference between the old school board budget of $33,486,606, which residents at the May 31 public meeting deemed too austere, and the public meeting figure of $34,342,616, which voters rejected on June 11, possibly due to the large tax increase that would have resulted.
"They're getting some of the stuff. The ed techs and the art but not all of it," he said. "I think it's a compromise between the two."
The board is scheduled to meet in a special session on July 2 at the Central Office in Belfast to approve the budget. That meeting will not include public comment.
The public budget meeting for all eight municipalities of RSU 20 will be held on July 22 at Searsport District High School at 7 p.m.
Tuesday's school board meeting was filmed by volunteer Christopher Hyk working in conjunction with Belfast Community Television. The meeting can be viewed on BC-TV's channel on the video hosting website Vimeo.
Ethan Andrews can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org