Vassalboro School Board members continued work on their 2019-2020 budget request at a special March 4 meeting, despite still lacking major figures.
Board members do not yet know what the state subsidy for schools will be this year, as state legislators consider which of several options they can afford. Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer said since the subsidy is based on the number of students, Vassalboro’s continued slow decline in school population will limit gains if legislators approve a higher subsidy.
Also uncertain is the amount needed for high-school tuition. Pfeiffer expects the amount will be around $3 million, a substantial part of the total budget. Last year Vassalboro’s school budget was about $7.7 million.
Smaller unknowns as of March 4 were insurance costs and prices for heating oil and bus fuel.
Pfeiffer pointed out that if the legislature increases the minimum wage, school spending is likely to be affected. Other legislature proposals could also change state or local school spending.
A pending local change is that the grant funding the pre-kindergarten program at Vassalboro Community School ends this year. School officials intend to continue the program, using money left over from the current year and anticipated state reimbursement.
Lacking major numbers, board members and school officials discussed smaller items, like Principal Megan Allen’s offer of about $8,300 reductions in new teaching-related expenditures.
Board Chairman Kevin Levasseur estimated that only about 30 percent of the school budget is subject to the board’s and voters’ discretion; the rest is fixed by contracts or necessity. He anticipates an increase in the total budget, no matter how closely board members study it.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening, March 19. A joint meeting of the School Board and Budget Committee is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday evening, March 26, at the school.