Scarborough School Board finds finances healthy

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SCARBOROUGH — School Board members received good financial news last week, and also got an introduction to the man heading construction at the new Wentworth Intermediate School.

Art Dudley, owner of the Standish-based contracting firm bearing his name, told the board he expects concrete will be poured next Monday at the site behind the existing school, and that steel frames and girders will be in place between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Dudley submitted a $27.9 million bid, the lowest received and nearly $3 million under the building allowance for the project that is expected to be finished in time for the 2014-15 school year.

Dudley said the immediate priorities beyond concrete and steel are work on the two stories of classrooms through next spring.

After the introduction of Dudley, Business Manager Kate Bolton reviewed fiscal year 2012 finances, which showed a surplus of almost $650,000.

The current fiscal year 2013 budget is funded with $200,000 of the surplus, but Bolton said the remainder is almost $130,000 more than the surplus at the end of fiscal year 2011.

While the general surplus is about 1.26 percent of the entire $435 million budget, Bolton also noted the district needed $750,000 of surplus funds for its budget two years ago.

The overall municipal goal is each budget should have more than 8 percent of surplus, a goal Bolton said would be hard to attain.

“It’s an accounting goal,” she said.

Bolton’s report detailed some individual deficits requiring board votes to shift more than $10,000 from accounts that ended the fiscal year on June 30 with surpluses. In total, $253,000 was shifted from areas detailed in the 11 “cost centers” outlined by state school budget law.

Those areas included a $55,000 shortage in the budget for substitute teacher wages, a $13,000 deficit in diesel fuel costs, and a $14,000 shortage for paying officials working athletic events.

Pay for substitute teachers was a favored topic for Bolton, she said, because it has decreased as a budget item each year in the four she has been handling business operations.

Bolton noted that maternity, family or medical leaves for 20 staff members cost $97,000 in pay for substitute teachers, but the current fund for substitute teachers has increased by about $48,000.

The largest deficit shift came as the board approved transferring almost $128,000 in general surplus to cover shortages in the school nutrition fund. Bolton said recommendations about purchasing and staffing could alleviate a deficit this year, and the board approved a $50,000 allocation to offset expenses this year.

As the board begins deliberations on the fiscal year 2014 budget, it will expect recommendations from a newly formed alternative revenues committee. Eight committee members were approved by the board, including high school students Jack Wheeler, Damian Ramsdell and Aaron Ravin; parents Mike Gilbert, Terrie Motter and Jeanna Tudor; Bolton, and School Board member Christine Massengill.

The committee was asked to look into revenue sources used by other districts and prepare an update by Dec. 20. A final report and recommendations will be made next Febraury as the board prepares the budget, and the committee is expected to be disbanded after that.

The committee was formed after a suggestion by Gilbert and high school students who objected to parking fees that went into effect last month.

Students are assessed a maximum $50 fee, reduced from the original $100, as a way to fund a projected $50,000 increase in student activities fees written into the fiscal year 2013 budget.

A portion of the compromise on the student parking fees now assessed at the high school came to fruition with the approval of the eight-member committee to explore alternative revenue sources for the fiscal year 2014 budget.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.