Consultant Jack Turcott, center, speaks to members of the Richmond Transition Committee on Wednesday evening. Turcott told the committee it should consider budgeting a total of $240,000 to properly set up the district before July 1. Zoom screenshot from Richmond Town Website

 RICHMOND — Richmond may need to allocate six times the money it was planning for its new school district to begin operating July 1.

The funds would allow the district to hire three administrators, including a superintendent, which consultant Jack Turcott said should be done as soon as possible. The town has already printed ballots asking voters to approve $40,000 for the soon-to-be-formed district over the next five months and was planning to have its superintendent and other staff start in July. Turcott, a former superintendent in Ellsworth, said the town should consider adding $200,000 more.

The suggestion to increase funding has local officials reeling. 

“I think the big struggle is, ideally and legally, we have to be paying employees before July 1 to get people running,” said Amanda McDaniel, chairperson of the Richmond Transition Committee. “We can’t really have a gap in services, or payroll waiting for (administrators) to get on their feet. Now we are stuck between realizing $40,000 isn’t going to cover it and how we pay before July 1.”

The transition committee is overseeing the district’s affairs until a school board is elected March 7.

Turcott said the need for administrators is urgent.


His reasoning is in part because of how lengthy the process of hiring a superintendent can be, but also because a business manager and information technology director are needed to manage the transition of employees and the first steps of organizing the district’s finances, like constructing the budget. 

“We won’t have enough, I don’t want to fool you,” Turcott told the transition committee Wednesday night. “The financial consequences of not being ready are far more serious than the fact you might be short.” 

Town Manager Laurisa Loon wondered aloud if the town could seek voter approval to add the funds during the upcoming special election in March. But the ballots, which ask residents whether to allocate $40,000 from the undesignated balance to help the district complete its separation from Regional School Unit 2, have already been printed, and absentee ballots have already been mailed out. 

The $40,000 the transition committee anticipated needing was meant to cover expenses such as the $13,000 cost to build the school department’s website and the $90-per-hour rate for a consultant. But it is not enough to cover any employee wages over the five-month period between when the school board forms and the fiscal year begins.

Michail Grizkewitsch, Jr., a resident who attended Wednesday’s meeting, suggested hiring a finance firm to help enter payroll data so it’s ready to go before July 1. He also acknowledged the large task the transition committee has taken on and asked if the committee could contract services from RSU 2 or if they could delay the withdrawal a year. Voters overwhelmingly approved the withdrawal in November.

“Watching the past meetings, I had no clue (how big the project was),” Grizkewitsch said. “(The town) doesn’t like the honesty, but it’s going to cost at least half a million (dollars). … The town wanted local control, but they didn’t know about the other baggage.” 


Though no staff can be hired until the school board is elected, the transition committee is allowed to draft job descriptions so the board is prepared to start the searches immediately.

Turcott said the district should hire an interim superintendent who plans to stay until 2024 and who will start sometime before July 1. He advised that the process of hiring a superintendent can take months. RSU 2, the district Richmond withdrew from, is going through the superintendent hiring process and allocated about six months for the task.

“The hiring process alone, with advertising — if you do get get more than one candidate — interviewing and screening, the process of just that alone is an astronomical amount of time,” Turcott said. 

A business manager and IT director are needed before the fiscal year starts to ensure the payroll system is properly set up, among other tasks. A financial firm could assist with some of those responsibilities, if the town chooses to go that route, but the system must be set up before July 1, according to Turcott. The IT director would supply and keep track of the software and data entry needed to get the district’s finances in order, he said.

The transition committee did not make any formal decisions Wednesday about what to do, or whether to hold another special election. Members will resume the discussion Monday at 5 p.m. at the town hall. The meeting also will be streamed online.

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