The Hermon School Committee on Monday approved a budget of more than $19 million for the 2023-24 school year by a vote of 4-1.
That is an increase of more than $1.5 million, or a nearly 9 percent increase, over the current budget. This school year’s budget also increased by $1.5 million, but that was a 9.5 percent increase over the 2021-22 budget, which was set at $17.5 million.
The 2023-24 budget is not final until Hermon voters approve it.
More than $10.2 million of the 2023-24 budget will come from local property taxes, and the state will contribute $8.6 million to it.
Board members Jesse Keith, Kristen Shorey, Stephanie Oiler and Christopher McLaughlin voted in favor of the budget. Haily Keezer opposed it.
Debbie CoWallis and Shannon Knowles, representatives from Rural School District 87, which is made up of Carmel and Levant, were absent. Students from those towns attend Hermon High School.
The 75 people who attended the meeting appeared to be about evenly divided over the budget. Older residents emphasized the need to keep the town’s tax rate at this year’s level of $11.99 per $1,000 assessed valuation. Some parents and staff spoke in favor of the budget.
The board agreed to use $1 million from its reserve account to help fund next year’s budget.
Enrollment is projected to increase by 58 with 29 new students expected in grades pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, and 29 expected at the high school.
The state’s contribution to the district increased 16 percent over last year, with an extra $140,000 coming after the Maine Department of Education miscalculated the state’s share of education costs.
The tuition rate for students attending the high school from Carmel and Levant went from about $8,500 last year to nearly $10,000 this year per student. The tuition rate for the 2023-24 school year won’t be set until December, Grant said.
The budget includes significant pay increases for educational technicians and staff after the district lost workers to neighboring districts that paid higher wages than Hermon did, according to Grant. That raise and a 5 percent cost of living increase for all employees increased the district’s budget for salary and benefits by $1.6 million. Last year’s cost of living raise was 3 percent.
The budget includes funding for three positions at the high school previously paid for with federal monies at a cost of about $280,000. A school resource officer, who recently began working in the district, and an attendance monitor are included in the budget.
Grant has said that the needs for the 2024-25 school year could include some large capital improvements, including replacing the bus garage, upgrading the heating and cooling system to improve air quality and renovating the science labs at the high school.
Last year, the budget approved by the school committee was rejected at the annual town meeting by two votes. The budget recommended by the town council, which was $100,000 less than the one the school committee proposed, passed.
The Hermon Town Council has not finalized its budget and has not weighed in on whether it will support the school budget as proposed. The town’s budget also is expected to increase by $1.5 million
The school budget must be approved at a special town meeting set for 7 p.m. May 15 where residents will vote on it. The annual town meeting will be held at 7 p.m. June 15. The meetings are being held separately this year because the question on whether to hold the votes at one meeting was inadvertently left off last year’s warrant.
Municipal elections will be held on June 13 at the middle school.