Vassalboro School Board members began review of the 2023-24 school budget at a special meeting March 7, with information on four cost centers.
The easiest category was ELL – English Language Learners. Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer said there are no ELL students this school year and none expected next year; he and finance director Paula Pooler agreed it should be safe to budget no money for 2023-24.
Certification – the budget lines that provide assistance to novice teachers – will have almost as little impact on the budget. Pfeiffer proposes budgeting less than $5,000 for that account.
For the 2023-24 technology budget, technology coordinator Will Backman requests almost $71,000, an increase of over $27,000 from the current year. Backman told school board members more than half the increase is intended for a rearrangement of the technology center.
He and Vassalboro Community School teacher and technology systems administrator David Trask explained that the central equipment is currently divided between two closets, one shared with the janitors. The plan is to consolidate everything in one server room. Backman does not yet know how much rewiring will be needed.
Backman also recommends $5,000 to replace a server, plus the usual technology costs and fees. The two experts and Principal Ira Michaud commented on technology added during the pandemic to facilitate remote learning that will be kept because teachers are finding it useful in classroom learning.
The largest budget item presented March 7 was the transportation account. Transportation Director Ashley Pooler is asking for a little over $647,000, an increase of more than $50,000.
The request does not include new school buses, although Peiffer said by next year board members might see a recommendation for at least one. An attached chart shows two of Vassalboro’s 12 buses have more than 100,000 miles on their odometers.
Pooler does recommend buying a third van; her chart lists two in service this year, each with a capacity of seven students. She further recommends another secretary in the transportation department, partly because of the increasing number of vans to support students’ educational programming.
Pooler and her staff serve all three formerly-united towns, Vassalboro, Waterville and Winslow, so the secretarial costs would be shared.
Pooler also recommends an increase in the vehicle maintenance budget.
Pfeiffer commented that Vassalboro’s fleet is “in good shape right now,” and as of March 7 the school department had enough drivers, many of them Vassalboro residents.
School budget discussions will continue at future meetings, to be announced as they are scheduled. The next topics Pfeiffer intends to present include buildings and grounds and special education (“a big one,” he warned).
The superintendent reported that high-school tuition went up 6.5 percent in December 2022, “one of the biggest jumps ever.” The 2022-23 Vassalboro budget was calculated to cover a three percent increase.
Because budgets are done in the spring every year and the new tuition rate comes out in December, school board and budget committee members and town meeting voters can only guess how much to appropriate.
The next regular Vassalboro school board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 21, at Vassalboro Community School.
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