Vassalboro school board gives preliminary OK to budget

Vassalboro Community School (contributed photo)

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro School board members met earlier than usual April 6 to give preliminary approval to the 2023-24 school budget request, amended slightly from the draft they’d reviewed March 29 (see the April 6 issue of The Town Line, p. 2).

They then met with the Vassalboro Budget Committee to present the proposed school budget for that committee’s review.

The school board and the budget committee are scheduled to meet separately Tuesday, April 11, the school board at 6 p.m. at Vassalboro Community School (VCS) for its regular monthly meeting and the budget committee at 7 p.m. at the town office to consider its 2023-24 recommendations.

The revised school budget totals $9,027, 846.55, Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer reported. Of that amount, $145,475.81 is requested from local property taxes.

Pfeiffer distributed a sheet showing that fixed costs total almost 89 percent of the budget. These he defined as salaries and benefits, tuition, business services, the facilities director and fuel oil.

The superintendent, and during discussion with the budget committee Principal Ira Michaud, listed some of the reasons the proposed budget includes more people to assist students with individual problems and needs. They include residual effects of educational and social losses due to covid; many students being raised in single-parent homes or by grandparents; and effects of substance abuse (like a parent dying of a drug overdose, or a child permanently affected by being born to an addicted mother).

These issues are state-wide, not unique to Vassalboro, Pfeiffer said.

Michaud added to budget committee members that more Vassalboro students are being identified for extra help; staff are getting “better at figuring out students’ needs.”

Having the town’s Red Cross warming center for emergencies located at the school adds a small amount to the school budget, for maintenance and generator fuel, Pfeiffer added.

The school board’s discussion ended with Pfeiffer, Michaud and Assistant Principal Tabitha Brewer listing good things about VCS.

They included the school board approving collective bargaining agreements with salaries and benefits that keep VCS competitive in the area; the proposed social service staff additions; in-house curriculum planning for the coming school year; “a wonderful staff” (Michaud) who care enough about their students to spend extra time leading after-school programs; and a strong parent-teacher organization.

“It’s a lot of fun – we have fun every day,” Brewer said.

“We do,” Michaud agreed.

When school board and budget committee members met together, Pfeiffer expanded on some of the points made at the school board meeting.

The salary and benefits increases in six contracts range from three to six percent, he said.

The food service account, which was $180,000 in deficit in 2018, is currently $89,000 in the black. The 2023-24 budget does not include money to support the food service program.

Secondary tuition is up significantly. The figure is set by the state each December, based on secondary schools’ actual costs.

A year ago, Vassalboro’s budget did not foresee the 6.5 percent increase in December 2022. Pfeiffer hopes the two percent increase in the 2023-24 budget will cover what happens in December 2023.

“Tuition makes me the most nervous,” he told budget committee members.

Special education is another area of uncertainty, because if only one child needing extensive help moves to Vassalboro, costs rise significantly.

Budget committee members had questions on several topics, and Pfeiffer invited them to submit more before their April 11 meeting.

Pfeiffer and Michaud said:

  • Bus maintenance costs are up by $10,000 even though Vassalboro’s fleet is comparatively new, because labor and materials costs have risen. The proposed budget includes no new buses, nor does it include a third van, a proposal discussed at the school board’s March 7 special budget workshop (see the March 16 issue of The Town Line, pp. 8-9).
  • Federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funding is supporting several staff members, who know their jobs will disappear when CARES money goes away, unless Vassalboro voters approve taking over funding.
  • School officials work cooperatively with the Vassalboro Public Library and with the Vassalboro recreation program, sharing the gymnasium and sometimes sharing program costs with the library and the parent-teacher organization (as for the April 4 presentations by Mr. Drew and His Animals, Too).

The joint meeting ended with distribution of printed copies of the March 2023 VCS newsletter, also available at public places in town and on-line on the vcsvikings website under the “News” heading.


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