State Increases Funding for Calais Schools by $300,000

By Lura Jackson

 

The preliminary budget for the upcoming fiscal year has been completed for the Calais school system, and among the significant changes over last year is an anticipated increase of $300,000 in funding from the state. The funds will offset the increase in costs in the school system, including the anticipation of funding Blue Devil Health Center.

“It couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time,” Jenkins said. The increased funding goes hand in hand with other anticipated savings. “A number of things fell together that we liked to have happen.”

The additional state funds were added at the last minute by the legislature when a change was made to the funding formula, Jenkins explained. The funding formula remains dependent on assessing how much of the projected budget is spent for each district each year. “The last two years, we had budgets reflecting actual costs, and we spent it. That’s why we’re getting it back.”

The increase from the state, careful budgeting by staff, and other cost-saving factors such as the upcoming retirement of two teachers will result in the school system requesting no increase to the local share contributed by the city. “I am very pleased with where we’re at with that,” Jenkins said, adding that this is the third year without an increase requested from the local share.

There may still be changes to the state’s contributions, including the possibility that they will cover the Blue Devil Health Center. Last year, $46,200 was removed from funding the clinic, but the school was able to absorb the cost. The initial legislation presented would provide reimbursement for that year as well as funds for FY19, but at the last minute the reimbursement option was stricken. The funding for FY19 was recommended as “ought to pass” by the state’s education committee, but that does not mean it will pass. “We have not planned for that money at this time,” Jenkins said. “It has a very good chance of happening, but until it does, we won’t assume.”

Other factors of small variance may come into play with teacher negotiations and how CTE is funded, but Jenkins said he does not anticipate any major changes.

There are a few maintenance issues that will need to be addressed this year. One is the replacement of the front doors at Calais Elementary School, which are no longer level and allow drafts to enter the building. Originally the project was planned for next year, but the added funds to the budget will enable it to be done this year. Also potentially planned for this year are the replacement of windows in the science room, which allow air and water to pass through them.

The doors at CMHS, which are a bigger project according to Jenkins, are planned for replacement next year. 

The previously-completed project to replace the heating system at CES has been a success, Jenkins shared. “I haven’t received a single complaint that they are too hot or too cold,” he said. At CMHS, meanwhile, Jenkins believes there may be savings to be had in the future if the boiler is switched to natural gas. He will be meeting with a representative to discuss it sometime this year.

Among the changes in last year’s budget was a new contract with First Student which requested relatively new busses for the Calais school system. Thus far, the busses have been “wonderful,” Jenkins said. “Everything we have on the road on a daily basis now is brand new.”  At the very beginning of the year, there were issues with student behavior; however, the recognition that every bus has a camera system and First Student’s method of addressing discipline has proven effective at mitigating that concern. Jenkins acknowledged that while the school system spent “a lot” in its request of newer busses, he didn’t think that it would have been a cheaper option to run the bus system from the school itself.

Discussions related to regional school consolidation have not progressed, and no meetings on the subject are planned at this time.