With virtually no discussion, the regional high school district committee voted Monday to certify an $18.6 million operating budget for the coming year.
The budget is an increase of 4.77 per cent over last year.
Salary increases, funding for a school resource officer and a recently completed roof replacement project are all including in the spending package.
More than two-thirds of line items dropped or remained the same as last year, while 103 line items saw an increase, principal Stephen Nixon told committee members during a presentation last week.
He said the budget addresses the needs of students, providing them the education they need for their future. “Our students are productive, and they are getting educationally what they need,” he said.
More than half of the budget is dedicated to salaries, and items related to instruction saw some of the heftiest increases.
The high school currently employs 59 unionized teachers at the top salary step.
“More than half of the people who are contractual are at the highest payment they can receive,” Mr. Nixon said.
That will probably change in the coming years, he said, as veteran teachers retire and younger staff members are hired to replace them, producing a net savings. “Probably the best you can have is a combination of young people and veteran teachers because they are both learning from each other,” he said.
He said this is the first year with as many as three staff members under the age of 26.
Still, he cited the ongoing challenges in recruiting young teachers to the school system. “We haven’t been able to attract teachers at that pay level because of the high cost of living on the Island,” Mr. Nixon said.
In addition, 81 per cent of the teaching staff has advanced degrees, which translates to a higher pay scale. Overall, the school pays its teachers an average annual salary of $75,000, compared with the state average of $70,000.
The budget also includes funding for a full-time school resource officer, which is a municipal police officer assigned to the school. Salary and benefits for that position are estimated at about $100,000.
During discussions about the position in May, Mr. Nixon said having a resource officer on campus, at sporting events and the prom would create constancy and stability for students, and allow them to develop trust and a positive relationship with a police officer.
Financing of the roof replacement project will begin officially next year, with the first payment due next September. The project cost is $1.8 million and will be paid over the next 10 years.
Budget shares that will be assessed to each town will not be determined until January.
Per-pupil spending in the high school is now pegged at $24,337.