Vassalboro school board begins budget review

Vassalboro Community School (contributed photo)

by Mary Grow

VASSALBORO, ME — Vassalboro School Board members began reviewing sections of the 2022-23 school budget at their March 22 meeting, hearing proposals for funding technology, health, ELL (English Language Learners’ programs), certification and maintenance.

They got updates on the lunch program, the pandemic and pre-kindergarten registration, and accepted the resignation of Principal Megan Allen.

The lunch program drew criticism from a parent in the audience. Her children refused most of the menu items, she said, adding, “half of them I don’t even know what they are.”

Food Director John Hersey said he is developing a survey, to be distributed electronically, asking what kinds of food students would like to see on the school lunch menu. He hopes to have the survey ready in a week or two, he said.

The Vassalboro Community School (VCS) breakfast and lunch menus are posted by the month on the school website, vcsvikings. Students opting for the school meal Thursday, March 31 (an early release day), should expect a bologna and cheese sandwich, coleslaw, orange wedges and milk.

Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer reported three weeks of negative pool testing for coronavirus. Pool testing will continue for another few weeks, he said.

Pfeiffer said currently 27 students are signed up for pre-kindergarten at VCS in the fall. Thirty students are the minimum needed to open a second pre-kindergarten class, supported by a state expansion grant, he said.

A student must be four years old by Oct. 15, 2022, to enroll in pre-kindergarten.

Allen is resigning to pursue other opportunities, Pfeiffer said.

Turning to the partial budget review, Pfeiffer said he did not yet have figures for other sections of the budget, nor could he predict when he would have them.

Finance Director Paula Pooler offered one date for more information: she expected Anthem Blue Cross to provide the maximum insurance increase for schools on March 24, and to give each school its specific increase by the second week in April. Meanwhile, she said, her placeholder recommendation is for a 10 percent increase.

Maintenance Director Shelley Phillips’ presentation drew the most questions, about both interior and grounds work.

Phillips said residents should expect increasing building maintenance costs, because, in addition to inflation in fuel, materials and labor, VCS “is not a new building any more.” It is time to upgrade lighting, she said, and to replace things that have worn out.

Having the building designated a Red Cross emergency shelter requires new showers and upgraded toilets for the locker rooms adjoining the gymnasium, at an estimated cost of more than $22,000. No, Phillips said, the Red Cross will not pay the bill.

Plowing and sanding, in early years done by the Vassalboro Public Works crew, is now contracted, because the road crew hasn’t the time. High gasoline prices will increase the cost. Phillips added that when she has a minor need, like a little sand, Road Foreman Gene Field will help out – “The town is very good to us.”

Grounds maintenance was in-house in the early days, but the custodian who had to abandon indoor jobs to mow the extensive lawn also ran into a time crunch, and that job is contracted. Phillips is pleased with the quality of the work.

Audience members were concerned about tick control, especially with a child care program at the school in the summer. Phillips said the work is done thoroughly and safely.

Technology coordinator Will Backman told board members his recommended 2022-23 budget is $1,837.59 below the current year’s budget, and explained the changes.

Pfeiffer summarized contents of the health budget: salary and benefits for the school nurse, supplies, record-keeping software and a contracted physician’s services, the doctor shared with Waterville and Winslow schools.

Pfeiffer is not aware of a need for an ELL program in 2022-23, although there has been one at VCS in the past, he said. He did not discuss the state-required appropriation for staff certifications, since board members have no control over it.

As the budget discussion ended, Pfeiffer reminded board members they still have major areas – tuition, regular and special education, transportation – to discuss. Since he could give no date when he would have sufficient information, board members postponed scheduling a budget workshop meeting.

 
 

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