2017-10-13 / Community News

Search is on for ‘creative funding’

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

Since forming in 2011, the Scarborough Education Foundation has funded more than $120,000 in innovative projects and initiatives in the Scarborough classrooms. While the education foundation will continue that work, the board of education and school leaders are looking for other “creative funding sources” to supplement school budget funding.

“We are calling them creative funding sources because they are above and beyond the way schools are traditionally funded through local, state and federal taxes,” Superintendent Julie Kukenberger said.

The board discussed two of those creative funding sources at last week’s meeting: one that is just in the works and one that has been put into place.

Proposed back in July, the Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution Community Debit Card Program, launched last month.

The bank has agreed to give a portion of each non-ATM debit card transaction made with new community debit cards to the Scarborough School Nutrition Program to, as Kukenberger said, “offset the food insecurity issue in Maine.” Originally five cents per transaction was discussed, but that number, Kukenberger said, has not been finalized.

There is no cost to the individual or district to get a new special Red Storm debit card. The bank also offers specialized cards for Biddeford, Old Orchard Beach, Thornton Academy and Westbrook. Although the Scarborough card says ‘Scarborough High School’ – transactions made with the card benefit the K-12 school nutrition program.

Heather Clark, the bank’s vice president and marketing manager, said food insecurity is something Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution takes very seriously.

“We wanted to do something and it be something that maybe everyone would want to donate to versus a sports team or something that someone without kids would want to donate to. I don’t have kids, but I still want to make sure kids have something to eat,” Clark said in July.

According to Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine, slightly more than 16 percent of households in Maine are food insecure. That includes one in every five children. Feeding America reports in 2015, there were 39,130 people who were food insecure in Cumberland County.

Food scarcity in Maine is huge and even in Scarborough, which isn’t always apparent. It’s a fantastic use of something that everyone uses everyday and an easy way to give back,” Board of Education Chairman Kelly Murphy said in July when the idea was first presented by Clark

The extra funding, which will be given to Scarborough next September, will help the nutrition program get back into the black. For years, the program has been operating in the red, with revenues from the meals not fully supporting the cost of providing them. The board of education last week voted to take $276,151 from the fund balance to cover the deficit the program experienced in fiscal year 2017, which ran from July 2016 to June 2017.

While that program is in the works, the board agreed to start a working relationship with Matt Boulerice and Tori Plaisted, of the Boulrice Group, a division of New England Realty Group, which operates out of the business park on Holly Street in Pine Point. After witnessing the budget divide the community has faced in recent years, Boulrice, a 2008 Scarborough High School graduate, and Plaisted recently donated $500 to the school department and have agreed to donate 5 percent of commissions to the department as well.

Boulrice said Plaisted was a teacher “so she is familiar with the struggles you go through every day.”

Boulrice said he would also like to partner with the school to offer students more opportunities to learn about financial literacy, banking, credit and possibly mentoring.

On Wednesday, Town and Country Federal Credit Union was scheduled to host a financial wellness event for high school seniors.

According to a press release about the event students received a “scenario packet of their life at age 22, which includes their occupations and income,” and mapped out “their financial future from financing their housing and transportation to purchasing food and clothing.” Students also participated in a workshop about how credit can impact their future. Kuken- berger said creating partnerships between the schools and businesses is something she, as well as other school leaders and the Scarborough School and Business Council, have been working on. To that end, an internship course will be offered in January.

Forging such partnerships is not something Kukenberger takes lightly.

“I wouldn’t have just agreed to partner with anyone willing to give us a check,” she said at the Oct. 5 meeting. “It’s really important we have some shared values and shared commitment about what education needs to look like now and in the future and we are aligned in that regard.”

Business Manager Kate Bolton, who gave an update on the fiscal 2017 year-end finances, said school-business partnerships and parents play an important role in funding school programs and initiatives by donating their time and resources to “keep things humming in our schools.”

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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