WELLS — It’s not common for the top two people who make the final decisions on a proposed school budget to be new to their positions.

History of certain line items, trends and other factors they may not be intimately familiar with all have to be considered. The exhaustive task can be quite daunting for the seasoned veteran, let alone your inaugural attempt.

That has been the case for Wells-Ogunquit Consolidated School Department Superintendent Jim Daly and Interim Director of Finance Jay Moore for the past six months.

But going into the budget, the rookies said they were aiming for no more than a $720,000 increase from last year’s $24.35 million total. They actually came in under – $718,922 – for a proposed budget of $25.06 million.

At the April 6 meeting, the School Committee gave preliminary approval to the budget, which may be given final approval at its May 4 meeting. Then there is another public budget meeting on June 1, when citizens will voice any concerns and vote by hand. The town will vote on the referendum June 14.

For a house assessed at $300,000, the proposed budget will mean a property tax increase of 8 cents per $1,000 of assessed value in Wells ($24) and 3 cents per $1,000 in Ogunquit ($9). The distribution is dictated by the percentage of students from each town in the school system – 96 percent from Wells and 4 percent from Ogunquit.

“When we started the project and started looking at the budget way back in October, we had a goal in mind of coming in at a $720,000 increase, which would keep us under 3 percent (increase),” said Moore, who noted it is actually a 2.95 percent uptick. “That was our goal all along.”

With two sets of fresh eyes looking at the budget as a whole, Daly and Moore decided they wanted to look at year-over-year, three-, and five-year averages for many departments’ line items to see what was necessary or what wasn’t being fully utilized.

The result may have been some small additions or subtractions, but nothing was eliminated completely.

The biggest chunk of the increase is for contracts for teachers, support staff and administration. The result was a 2 percent increase across the board for a $290,000 escalation from 2015-16. No positions were eliminated, Moore said.

“That is part of the cost of doing business – salaries and benefits,” he said.

Helping offset some of the costs was $80,000 more in state subsidies, up to $965,000, and a 66 percent decrease in debt services.

The state contribution was welcome news, as many surrounding towns saw significant decreases.

“I appreciate everyone working together­– teachers, administrators, school committee members – to create a fiscally responsible budget,” said Daly, who was Wells High School principal since 2007 before taking his new job. “I thought the process was outstanding, and all of the school stakeholders worked as a team.”

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: