November 8, 2012

HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS: Nokomis to make cuts after vote

By Matt DiFilippo mdifilippo@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

The proposal by Regional School Unit 19 to borrow $3.6 million to improve its financial situation was defeated Tuesday.

THE VOTE

Unofficial town-by-town votes in the RSU 19 loan referendum. Votes will become official when they are submitted in writing and certified by the town clerks.

Town    Yes    No
Corinna    546    478
Dixmont    322    347
Etna    255    317
Hartland    346    486
Newport    785    795
Palmyra    493    538
Plymouth    305    322
St. Albans    448    570
Total    3,500    3,853

RSU 19 includes the towns of Corinna, Dixmont, Etna, Hartland, Newport, Palmyra, Plymouth, and St. Albans. Many of the cuts that will be made as a result involve programs at Nokomis Regional High School, including all junior varsity programs for winter and spring sports and travel for athletic teams to road games.

"We'll figure out a way to get through this," Nokomis principal Mary Nadeau said, "but it feels like a limb was severed off."

The referendum failed by 353 votes. In Corinna, it was approved 546 votes to 478. If was defeated in each of the other seven towns, ranging from a 10-vote margin in Newport to a 140-vote margin in Hartland.

"Disappointed is, I don't think enough of a description for how I feel," Nokomis athletic director Earl Anderson said. "I'm beyond disappointed."

According to information on the RSU 19 website, cutting the JV and middle school "B" programs will save an estimated $25,000 -- which comes to about 3.4 percent of the estimated budget savings. Eliminating athletic and co-curricular transportation is estimated to save an additional $33,000.

Anderson said he wasn't sure whether more sports programs would be cut in the future.

"This is for the remainder of this year," Anderson said. "As far as beyond this year, I don't think anybody knows."

The cuts also include field trips, custodial, clerical, food service, and library positions, and after-school activities.

"Athletics always gets a lot of attention, but it's not just athletics," Nadeau said. "There's no aspect of the high school that's not touched."

"There's a relatively small percentage of the budget that you have control to cut at this point," Anderson said.

Greg Potter, who took over as superintendent in July, blames the financial situation on a variety of mistakes and mismangements, including the district neglecting to bill towns for more than $300,000. The district is also on the hook for a $1.5 million Revenue Anticipated Note, which Potter said was used to pay off previous debts.

Potter did not return messages left Wednesday at his office and on his cellphone.

People on different website have suggested that administrators take salary cuts to help pay for programs. When asked about that, Nadeau replied, "I think everything is being cut. Employees have given. In the past couple years, there have been pay freezes. Teachers have taken furlough days. That stuff is happening."

Nadeau said the school will now look at different options, such as asking residents to approve a smaller loan.

"The cuts we've identified already don't resolve our financial needs," she said.

In the 2011-12 school year, Nokomis went to the Eastern B final in field hockey, girls basketball, and softball. The girls basketball and softball teams are again expected to contend for regional titles.

Sara Packard, a junior at Nokomis who pitched for the softball team during the playoffs, said she was "really upset" when she heard the results of the vote.

"I think not having a JV team will hurt us in the long run," she said. "I think we'll just need to stick together this year, and then maybe next year, things will be different."

Nadeau and Packard both said they have heard conversations about students wanting to transfer schools because of the cuts.

"I love going to Nokomis," Packard said. "I'm proud to be a Warrior. But if extra-curricular and after-school activities get cut, I'm going to transfer if a school can offer me a better education."

Matt DiFilippo -- 861-9243

mdifilippo@centralmaine.com

 

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