SAD 61 finalizes proposed budget
By Wayne E. Rivet
As SAD 61 officials considered a long list of perceived needs, tough choices had to be made to keep the proposed budget to within a 3% hike.
Fixed costs — led by contracted increases in salaries and benefits — pushed the budget needle to the school board mandated threshold, leaving little room financially to address major purchases and projects.
So, Superintendent of Schools Al Smith suggested that the Finance Committee dip into the Undesignated Fund Balance and Capital Reserve accounts to pay for a laundry list of improvements totaling $1,455,755 — without increasing taxes.
Monday night, the Finance Committee agreed to move $1.1 million from the Undesignated Fund Balance into Capital Reserve to pay for:
- $170,000 to replace two buses
- $85,000 to upgrade the Lake Region High School elevator. While the present elevator is “grandfathered,” Smith said it needs to be bigger to accommodate special service needs of some students, and should be brought up to current code.
- $328,255 for parking and traffic improvements at Lake Region Middle School
- $475,000 for parking and traffic improvements at Songo Locks School
- $41,745 for paving at Lake Region High School.
Superintendent Smith said the current Undesignated Fund Balance (UFB) sits at $2,333,838. State statute allows school systems to carry forward 3% per year, which means over a three-year period that figure could reach 9%.
With some funds expected to rollover after this budget season — to be added to the remaining $1.2 million left in the UFB —Smith anticipates that SAD 61 will still have a good cushion (6% to 7%) available over the next two years.
Procedurally, money from the UFB is shifted to the Capital Reserve Account, and is earmarked specifically for each project. Voters will then decide whether to expend those Capital Reserve funds.
Currently, SAD 61 has built up the Capital Reserve to $485,925. Smith and the Finance Committee propose to spend $355,755 on the following items:
- $117,500 on life extension roofs 1 & 2 at Stevens Brook Elementary School
- $200,000 to replace/upgrade the Lake Region High School track. Smith said the price is lower than previously quoted, so he feels it’s a good time for the district to address the matter.
- $38,255 for paving at Lake Region High School.
Smith noted that statutorily, there is no limit as to the amount retained in a Capital Reserve Account. But since no one can anticipate “when something might go awry, which usually is expensive to take care of,” Smith said, a healthy $130,170 would remain.
“Most of the items on this list would have about a 10-year shelf life, excluding the parking lots, which is difficult to determine because of the weather we have here in Maine,” Smith said. “We can upgrade what needs to be done with our physical plant without an increase to our taxpayers.”
At last week’s Finance Committee meeting, district Finance Coordinator Sherrie Small reviewed each warrant article line and accounted for either increases or decreases. They included:
Article 2, Regular Instruction. Key highlights included the shifting of money provided from a grant covering a teaching position, which will be moved from Stevens Brook to Songo Locks. This line also had a reduction of two teachers, one at LRHS and another with Extended Studies (gifted & talented teacher, retirement).
Proposed budget: $10,649,678
Article 3, Special Education. No new staffing.
Proposed budget: $5,156,375.20
Article 4, Career and Technical Education. Key highlights included the fire science position was budgeted as half-time, not full-time; reductions were made in maintenance projects and automotive technology; no new programs added; health insurance changes resulted in a reduction of $14,442.87.
Proposed budget: $1,471,281.25
Article 5, Co-Curricular/Summer Instruction/Athletics. New stipends were added to address increases in participation (one lacrosse, one open assistant) and after-school supervision at LRMS.
Proposed budget: $570,242
Article 6, Student & Staff Support. Highlights include staff change SBES guidance/psych services (reduction $22,146.31); reduction of a secretary at Songo Locks guidance services ($13,581.55); LRHS guidance staff change ($29,761); reductions in curriculum work, professional development and supplies district wide ($68,441.81); reduction district wide ADA support services ($4,789.46).
Proposed budget: $2,608,392.65
Article 7, System Administration. No new staff, reduction in system upgrades ($11,992.40).
Proposed budget: $909,096.59
Article 8, School Administration.
Proposed budget: $1,480,665.86
Article 9, Transportation. One bus reduction (money will come from Undesignated Fund Balance, moved to Capital Reserve); shift in staffing ($7,225).
Proposed budget: $1,730,239
Article 10, Facilities & Maintenance. This line took the biggest hit, Small said, since $600,000 in requests were removed. A revolving renovation fund loan was paid in full (previous payment $22,218, this year $14,265 — difference $7,953 savings).
Proposed budget: $3,413,303.97
Article 11, Debt Service. Reduction in interest, savings $43,848.
Proposed budget: $2,048,343
Article 12, Other Expenditures. Same levels as last year, $100,000 for Food Service, $50,000 for community use of facilities.
Proposed budget: $150,000
Effect on the towns
At a meeting last Thursday night, 13 town officials and nine residents — all from Sebago — received a budget overview.
Smith started out the presentation noting that SAD 61 tried it best to be “fiscally responsible” as the budget was developed. He pointed out that 80% is fixed costs, and SAD 61 had no control over spikes in healthcare costs.
“I believe this is a solid budget,” Smith said. “We have some one-time expenditures and projects that have longevity to them — 10 to 20 years.”
While few town leaders had questions regarding the budget (most attended the workshop to gain more information regarding Sebago’s withdrawal proposal — see related story), Smith plans to set up times to visit each town’s board of selectmen in the coming weeks to give a short presentation and answer questions.
- Tuesday, May 16, 6:30 p.m., district budget meeting, Lake Region High School gym.
- Tuesday, May 30, budget validation referendum, ballot vote in all four district towns.
What it will cost local towns
- Additional local money to fund the budget checked in at $7,527,925 while the adult education local share is $331,900.
Preliminary estimates peg assessments to the four SAD 61 towns as follows:
Bridgton — $9,743,140, up $271,268
Casco — $6,667,472, up $196,720
Naples — $7,504,645, up $220,604
Sebago — $3,116,263, up $92,739
- Total local contribution — $27,031,520, an increase of $781,331
- Total proposed budget — $30,751,035, which represents a 2.75% increase over last year.