Calais School Committee Considers Further Cuts

By Gwen Clark

The Calais School Committee met last Wednesday evening at the high school library to discuss other further cuts in order to bring their budget under the amount last approved by the City Council to be set out for referendum.   

Keith Laser, the new Superintendent reported that he has reviewed the current budget and had a lot of questions concerning numbers in the budget so he has been working with the budget in figuring out and finalizing the numbers.  

Keith stated that:  “Its a lot worse than  any of us even thought and with the numbers that the City gave us  $140,000 I found errors throughout the budget that were never caught.  I’ll give you an example of a big chunk of change was that we put in $900,000 for the money on the Calais Day Treatment Center and in somewhere in my past down I heard it was $700,000 so I went back and I asked Sue Carter and we went back and put in $750,000, right there we just lost $150,000.  Addition to what we were looking at before.  Then I said how many tuition students are in that list; there are 82 kids from other schools  with tuition,  with each of those kids we get an x amount of tuition money, so we called the principals up and asked what did you come in here with, and the numbers are down in the high school to the tune of about  $85,500 so there’s another $85,000 in the hole.  In our budget it had physiological evaluations  and those were reimbursements from kids from other districts that the AOS received  and that number was in there for $56,400.  All the kids were Calais kids. They are not from other districts.  So there was a decrease of $56,400.  The Medicaid those are the ones that jumped out at me and those are the ones that I caught right off the bat,  $85,000 in the hole, $56,400 from the psychological evaluations and the medicaid is down $175,000.  So the number I said last night $322,000 nope not even close.  The number that I’ve come up with  and I’ve had less then 24 hours to process this, all of this stuff in our budget but including the monies we have received from the City and fixing these inaccuracies and some other things that I have seen the price of fuel we have previous bought at $3 per gallon well I believe we bought 30,000 gallons today at $3.36 a gallon.  So the number I thought last night and this is with the cuts out of there that the School Committee previously approved,  we’re in the hole $498,389.10  We are in the hole half a million dollars.  So that’s where we’re at. There is a possibility that within the last 24 hours that I have done this thing and I made a mistake but I don’t know where that would be.”  

“I have some ideas but its going to be cuts in personnel and I don’t know where else to go,  I have outlined those but in fairness I have not talked to the folks , that are being contemplated.  Even with the positions and the recommendations that I have we’re still $6,500 off.  I think there are some other places that we can find some revenue but I strictly looked at positions and I came up with $435,000.”

With that being stated the School Committee began an evening of hashing over possibilities of where these cuts will be made.   The number of allowed students per classroom was explored.  The state recommendation is ideally 16 students per classroom.   Kindergarten classrooms are no more then 20 to 1.   

John Hill stated:  “I know where my position is. I don’t want to cut teachers, which means everything else has got to go, all stipends.  I think that sports are a moral thing in high school but you know what teaching our kids is more important as far as getting an education.  I don’t know of anybody from Calais High School that made money at sports.  I know of a lot people who have enjoyed the sports, gone through college and this and that and have played them there, had a great social life over it and maybe have improved their life but when it comes to what’s really important we’ve got to cut sports and all that stuff first.”  

Bob Greenlaw:  “That’s really not going to save us a ton of money. I’d be in favor of cutting some of the stipends but not all.” 

Hill:  “That’s $53,000 in stipends. That’s one teacher we can save right there.”  

Kathleen Caso:  “On last years stipends because I don’t have the current ones with me , there wasn’t that much of a difference, Coaches $33,320,  extra curricular $14,490, music $57,034, vocal $28,067, so we’re looking at about $90,000.”  

Hill:  “That’s two teachers possibly. Every penny counts right now. I told you at the beginning when I got on this Sschool board I’m not cutting teachers.”   

Other cuts to be considered were:  Title 1 elementary school position, switching  some ed. techs to other positions,  furlough days, ed. tech high school position, sale of the truck driving class truck, extra curricular supplies,  library position, over-all accreditation,  moving of personnel around, cutting from full time to part-time positions in some cases, mainly music and art,  cutting kindergarten class or having two half day classes, transportation and bus contracting comes into play with that  decision,  the switch over to propane use should save about $50,000.   The high school should be the easiest and cheapest of change over.  There is also a safety issue in the driveway at the elementary school that needs to be addressed. Two hundred and seventeen high school students are enrolled in Calais at present, sixty five grades seven/ eight students.  Elementary 261 students.   

Hill:  “Its going to affect the kids no matter what we decide.”

The cost of leaving the AOS and its effects were also discussed.  An explanation of the current law suit that the Calais School Committee is in with the AOS, that approximately $34,000 is sitting to be decided rather it will be returned to Calais or whether Calais will have to continue paying out on the AOS contract for the Superintendent for the next three years as well as paying for the new Superintendent and staffing plus refurbishing the Superintendents Office so there is a possibility that monies may have to be paid out to the AOS for at least the next three years or term of the contract all riding  on a Court out come as well as court and legal fees incurred.  A lot of ideas and cuts were discussed and now knowing the most accurate situation with the schools the School Committee will meet on Thursday  September 19th at 6PM in the Library to make more permanent calls on its options available.