School committee ponders how to use large surplus

Edgecomb school budget will have close to $350k to end year
Wed, 06/10/2020 - 8:30am

As the school year ends, the Edgecomb School Committee still has at least one unresolved issue. The Edgecomb Eddy School roof needs an estimated $250,000 in repairs. The undesignated fund balance, also known as surplus, has roughly $350,000 thanks to beginning the year with nearly $113,000  and savings derived from distance-learning replacing traditional school instruction due to the coronavirus. During the June 8 committee meeting, Alternative Organizational Structure 98 Superintendent Dr. Keith Laser recommended using a large chunk of surplus to repair the roof. But dire economic predictions have the committee concerned about taxpayers’ well-being in the coming months and years. 

Committee Chairman Tom Abello cautioned fellow board members Heather Sinclair and Dawn Murphy to take a wait-and-see approach in spending surplus funds. “We’re entering unchartered waters with the economy. The town is facing a significant blow to revenues, and we really need to take a look at balancing both needs. We owe it to the town to keep the budget as low as possible, so let’s wait until hearing from the selectmen,” he said. 

The committee discussed working with selectmen to determine how much of the surplus to use in 2019-20 for the roof and in 2020-21 for reducing local taxpayer contributions for the school. Abello reported selectmen were aware of the large surplus balance and would likely discuss it during their June 15 meeting. Another unresolved issue is when Edgecomb will hold its annual town meeting, postponed from May 16. Abello indicated holding it under Maine’s State of Emergency which limits public gatherings to less than 50 would be difficult. Abello speculated Edgecomb may be forced into holding a referendum-style town meeting to approve municipal and school budgets. The school committee agreed to meet in either late June or early July to decide how to use surplus funds.

In other action, Edgecomb Eddy Principal Ira Michaud reported the school finished the year with 107 students. Enrollment projections for 2020-21 show 108 with especially strong numbers in the lower grade levels. Next year’s class projections are as follows: pre-kindergarten, 11; kindergarten, 17; first grade, 18; second grade, 16; third grade, 14; fourth grade, 10; fifth grade, 15; and sixth grade, seven. Michaud also reported the school’s teachers on June 8 discussed the next school year. Michaud plans on sending two surveys this summer to parents, students and staff for their opinions on reopening this fall. “We recognize the need to wait a bit longer for guidance from the Department of Education and the governor,” Michaud said. “We plan on sending a second survey to gather input from families on how starting the school year works best for them.”

The next school year will start with a new administrative assistant. Judy Reid retired after 30 years. The school received 18 applications, the most Michaud has received for any vacancy in his three-year tenure. Michaud and school staff will interview selected candidates the week of June 15-19. The school is also seeking two educational technicians. Deborah Beam died in January; Becky Alley took a job at Boothbay Region Elementary School. Laser recounted BRES’s recent experience in finding qualified ed techs. “The principal had to re-advertise because she didn’t receive enough qualified applicants. It seems good ed techs are hard to find these days.”

The school committee voted unanimously to hire pre-kindergarten teacher Sally Monroe after her first probationary year. Michaud praised Monroe for being a “phenomenal addition to the Edgecomb Eddy staff. It’s been a fantastic experience and I’m extremely proud of her work. She’s been a real gift to us all,” he said.