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Superintendent Brannigan retiring

October 15, 2009
NEWPORT — Marilyn Brannigan, Newport's interim superintendent of schools, will be leaving her $90,000 a year position June 30.

That news surfaced at the Oct. 8th meeting of the School Administrative Unit 43 board, casting a cloud over the 2010-11 SAU budgetary process.

""If we had to shop for a superintendent, will this budget cover it? That's the issue," said Bob Collins, chairman of the Newport School Board.

"It is an issue," Brannigan responded.

At that point, Mike Johnson, chairman of the SAU board, stated Brannigan had given him a letter a day earlier stating she would be leaving her position in June.

"You'll probably have to increase the salary," Brannigan said of the position. On a 6-1 vote, the SAU board agreed with her assessment and added $75,000 to the preliminary SAU budget presented by Business Administrator Jim Vezina.

"We're between a rock and a hard place," Vezina said.

When Brannigan was hired at the start of the 2008-09 school year to fill the superintendent's slot on an interim basis, it was a budgetary coup of sorts for the SAU board that found itself backed up to the hiring wall at the time.

There were 14 applicants for the superintendent's job opening. The field was narrowed down to three finalists and all three backed out even though the salary being offered was at $100,000.

"They were already earning that much," Johnson told his fellow board members. "We can't go backwards on money and benefits," he continued.

But Brannigan said, "It's highly unlikely you'll hire someone not wanting benefits."

Brannigan did not have benefits including health insurance and retirement when she was hired. Vezina said health insurance will cost approximately $20,000 and he pegged retirement at $10,000.

Those items, along with a projected salary of $110,000, a $20,000 increase, could use up $50,000 of the additional $75,000 added to the budget. The search for Brannigan's replacement may also make a sizeable dent in the remaining $25,000.

Collins even suggested the benefits package could be in the $40,000 vicinity.

Vezina said there was no money in his preliminary budget to conduct a search for a new superintendent. Johnson suggested the three previous finalists might also be approached to determine if any of them may still be interested.

The SAU board was in agreement that the search for Brannigan's replacement must begin immediately.

Croydon's Jim Peschke voted against increasing the budget by $75,000. "You're looking at increasing the budget by 13 percent. No way. I realize we have an issue here, but there has to be another way," he said.

"In reality, if we want a full-time superintendent this is what we have to do," Collins responded.

"I can't sit here and justify the increase," Peschke said.

Brannigan suggested a part-time superintendent.

Peschke said he wasn't even happy with the proposed budget before the increase was approved. That budget called for $703,170 in expenditures, up $19,873 over the current budget.

"We need to get a search committee formed and set the salary," Johnson said as the discussion wound down.

The SAU board will meet at 6 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 29, in a non-public session to get the search committee up and running. The board will hold a budget work session starting at 6 p.m., Monday, Nov. 9 with the public hearing scheduled for 6 p.m., Nov. 12. Both of those meetings will be held in the Lou Thompson Room at Newport Middle High School.

The budget proposed by Vezina includes an increase of 3 percent for salaries and 4 percent for health insurance.

"I think all the current talk on health care will stem some of the increase," Vezina predicted.

Matin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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