A committee of Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor town officials, CSD trustees and school committee members met for the first time Feb. 4. The committee of Denise Griffin, Tricia Warren, Dale Harmon, Steve Lewis, Steve Lorrain, John Bertolet, Dan Bryer and Tom Woodin has been charged to come up with both short- and long-term solutions to limits set to the CSD by a charter drafted in 1956. Currently, the Board of Trustees is allowed no more than $12,500 per year toward its capital improvements fund. Trustees chair Richard Hallinan reported, the account has $70,000 after nearly six years of saving.
Historically, the trustees have had to take out loans for projects like paving and roof repairs and that system has worked so far; however, heating and ventilation repairs which must be done in the near future will cost in the ballpark of $4 - $5 million and will be more than just a few years of debt repayment.
The committee unanimously agreed a 60/40 split between the towns should continue for the trustees’ budget as they eye a solution set on funding the capital reserve account up to $140,000 per year with a Consumer Price Index-based increase every year. The increase would likely be two percent every year.
This would help address concerns that Maine laws allow for budget carryover into the next fiscal year, but not straight into capital reserve, so a boost to the reserve budget will help the trustees save for larger scope projects.
Another concern from the selectmen is about how the trustees are allowed to seek bonds.
“Bonds need to go to a voter referendum if the amount of the bond is over $250,000,” Griffin suggested. “Today there is nothing that speaks to a minimum amount.”
Committee members were also suggesting a competitive bidding requirement at $50,000. Hallinan said the limit has always been $2,000, but that precedent was set in 1956. Lewis asked if $50,000 was too much. Hallinan said he would say even as low as $10,000 would give the trustees some wiggle room.
Woodin said when the charter was reviewed in 2016, over a dozen items were found in need of updating and were set aside because no one saw the point in going through the entire process to get changes through the legislature without combing through the entire charter.
“It looks like we're going to do one or two things, but there's still a lot of stuff in that charter that doesn't work for you,” Woodin reminded the committee.
Members agreed longer term issues are going to require the wisdom and guidance of someone with more knowledge about the structures of school districts. Lewis suggested the committee get someone from Augusta and Tom suggested pursuing Drummond and Woodsum lawyer William Stockmeyer who has worked with the school system on varying issues over the years.
Griffin said the question remains whether the CSD is changed to something else entirely, to a different form of governance or if the outdated items are simply updated to meet the needs of the district.
Said Griffin, “Boothbay Harbor thinks the trustees have provided well. I know we're different from 99.99 percent of the towns in the rest of the state, I know this is unusual, but I also know how hard it is to find good people to run for elected spots and it's going to be very hard to find people to run in the future who have expertise both on the academic side versus the building side. I've polled the board and that's how we feel.”
Any of the short term changes the committee suggests may or may not need to go before voters, said Bryer, but would need to be approved by both towns’ boards of selectmen. More encompassing, longer term changes warranted by the boards should go to a referendum as good will for the voters to decide, Bryer said, and in both cases, changes small and large must come before the Maine State Legislature.