Cape School Board continues to work on 3 budget scenarios

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The School Board has held four budget workshops in two weeks, and is continuing to work through three budget scenarios for the 2011 school year.

Superintendent Alan Hawkins gave a financial update at the March 23 meeting, and said due to reductions in health insurance costs and an increase in state subsidy, the board has about $472,000 in additional contingency funds.

Although many administrators presented lean budgets to the board, the unexpected, district-wide savings prompted a discussion about replacing the outdated boilers at the high school, and supplementing the undesignated fund balance that had been used to offset curtailment costs.

Hawkins said the boilers at the high school were installed in 1969 and are in desperate need of upgrades.

As part of his budget presentation, Facilities Manager Ernie MacVane said he recommends replacing the boilers with more energy efficient units. MacVane estimated the cost at about $300,000.

“The existing boilers may run another year, but they are not energy efficient and grossly oversized,” he said.

The board decided to place the item on the agenda for an upcoming meeting.

In addition, the board continued to hear reports from department heads. Administrators were directed to create budget proposals around three scenarios: a zero percent tax increase with significant reductions to programs and positions, a midpoint budget that would increase taxes about 2.8 percent and reduce programs slightly, and a maintenance budget that would retain current service levels but raise taxes almost 5 percent.

While high school Principal Jeffrey Shedd presented his three proposed fiscal 2011 budget options to the board, he also included $80,000 in additional positions, stipends and travel expenses.

A half-time study skills teacher and a full-time educational technician II would be added for $64,500; stipends for the peer help group Natural Helpers and World Affairs Council/Model U.N. would be added at $6,000; and at an increase of $4,000, an educational technician integrator position would be upgraded from Level II to Level III.

At the zero percent tax increase, Shedd proposed a $212,000 reduction, at the midpoint budget level $110,000 would be cut, and at the maintenance level, $5,000 would be cut.

A few budget reductions would be made across the three scenarios, Shedd said. In his budget overview, he listed eliminating the choral music program and a one-semester course offering in theater. Other reductions include eliminating stipends for department heads and student support team, plus eliminating Booktalk and Mock Trial.

At the midpoint level, a few teachers and programs eliminated would be restored, including half of the attendance secretary position, half a Mandarin teacher, half a social worker, half a computer technology teacher and less than half-time positions in art, math and social studies.

“Every budget I’ve ever made has had an impact on the education of the kids,” Shedd said. “These proposed budget cuts have an impact on the education and humanity of the students.”

Student representatives Julia Springer and Matt Miklavick said the school nurse, nurse’s assistant and attendance secretary are invaluable members of the high school staff.

“People have said (attendance secretary Joan Moriarty) is the face of the school, but she’s really the soul of it,”  Miklavick said. “I’m not sure there is another employee at the school who impacts the students like Mrs. Moriarty does.”

For more information on the proposed 2011 budgets, visit the Cape School Board Web site. To view all budget workshops, visit the Superintendent’s Blog on the school Web site. 

The board was expected to deliberate again on the 2011 budget in a workshop held Thursday, March 25 at 7 p.m. in the high school library. There will be a public meeting on Wednesday, March 31, at 7 p.m. in the high school cafeteria.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or