SAD 61 budget passes

By Lisa Williams Ackley

Staff Writer

NAPLES — Over 100 people attended the annual budget meeting for School Administrative District 61 Tuesday night, passing a budget that is $14,177 more than the $26,104,903 proposed budget recommended by the Lake Region School District's Board of Directors.

The total amount approved, as amended at the May 15 budget hearing, is $26,119,080.

Now voters from Bridgton, Casco, Naples and Sebago will go to the polls in their respective towns from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on May 22 to validate the budget by referendum.

It took just over two hours Tuesday evening for all 20 warrant articles to be discussed and approved.

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These are the total appropriations by town for the SAD 61 budget for 2012-2013:

Bridgton — $6,445,383

Casco — $5,110,902

Naples — $5,746,557

Sebago — $2,437,993

Total Appropriated — $19,740,835

The following shows the total raised and SAD 61 assessments by municipality:

Bridgton — $6,005,572

Casco — $4,382,591

Naples — $5,353,497

Sebago — $2,271,454

Total Raised — $18,013,114

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Several speakers addressed the $8,899,592 amount proposed for the Regular Instruction K-12 cost center, with Grant Plummer of Casco making a motion to add $30,000 to that line item of the budget.

Board member Phil Shane of Casco asked, "What's the $30,000 for?"

"It's for the reinstatement of a full-time position at Stevens Brook Elementary School, a fourth grade teacher, and a fifth grade teacher at Songo Locks School," said Grant Plummer.

Sally Plummer stepped to the microphone next, saying, "My understanding is there is $55,000 (budgeted) for two Ed Tech positions." She suggested that by adding $30,000 more to the $55,000 the two teachers could be reinstated, rather than having two Ed Tech IIIs.

Requesting they "reallocate" the $55,000 for the Ed Tech IIIs and add the $30,000 for that purpose, Sally Plummer asked the board members to honor their request, "so we can educate our kids in a manner they both need and deserve."

Lisa Magiera of Casco, the mother of two students at Songo Locks School, spoke in favor of reinstating the teacher's position at SLS, saying it "would be unthinkable to handicap" these students "at a pivotal time in their education."

Referring to the directive by the school board to the SAD 612 Leadership Committee to keep the budget at "level funding," Kelly Clavette of Naples bluntly told the school board members, "So, you're essentially replacing teachers with ed techs to save money."

Clavette went on to say that increased class sizes "hinder a teacher's ability" to be as effective as possible and also makes students have to deal with the change to a larger class size.

"Fifth grade is an important year, when teachers are preparing students for a major transition to middle school," said Clavette. "I don't agree with increasing any class sizes...and an ed tech is not a replacement for a teacher...it's $30,000 (requested) in a $26 million budget...This affects 84 kids — that's $250 per child." She then asked the school board to accept the $30,000 request in order to show "you believe in our kids and our kids do come first."

Marie Caron of Naples suggested that "people taking Adult Ed could pay a little bit more" so that the teaching positions could be reinstated.

Attendees approved amending Article 2 by adding the amount requested, with only a dozen or so opposed.

Bridgton Director Laura Ordway rose from the directors' table and walked out front to the audience microphone, saying she wanted to "address the situation of the kindergarten ed techs."

Ordway said the goal in her years on the board was to have the kindergarten ed techs help the first year students adjust to school "on every level."

"Because we don't offer Pre-kindergarten, kindergarten "has been crucial."

"Ed techs are very beneficial, especially for kids having a tougher time (adjusting)," said Ordway. "This year, because of what the (school) board charged the Leadership Team with (to bring in a level funded budget), the Kindergarten ed techs would be replaced "with ed tech IIIs which will overlap Grades K through 2."

"My amendment would be to take 6.5 ed tech IIIs in the amount of $192,549 plus/minus and replace them with nine ed tech IIs in the amount of $229,726," Ordway stated. "To clarify my amendment, the board had added in nine ed tech IIIs for K through 2 and I would like to remove those and have only nine kindergarten ed techs, for a savings in the budget of $25,823."

No guarantees for carrying out suggestions

It was at this point in the budget meeting that SAD 61 Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kathleen Beecher made a point that she reiterated throughout the rest of the evening — that amendments to warrant articles may be approved by the voters for specific purposes, but that does not ensure, in any way, that those suggestions and recommendations will be carried out by the school board.

"I want to be clear," Dr. Beecher stated. "The amounts (of warrant articles) can be changed, but what those amounts are used for can not."

"The board is hearing and I am hearing what you are saying," said Beecher, "but putting in money and saying what you'd like it to be used for" does not mean it will be used for the purpose requested.

Moderator John Robinson explained further, saying, "The purpose of this meeting is not to identify where money is spent...You can debate what articles you want, but the bottom line is the board and administration" make the final decision.

"Dr. Beecher is exactly correct," said Ordway. However, she said, amounts identified for certain purposes "are not set in stone."

Ordway's amendment to Article 2 was approved and the main article passed as amended in the amount of $8,903,769, with less than a half dozen voters opposed.

Article 5 on the budget warrant — Other Instruction in the amount of $436,642 brought out some impassioned comments.

Trevor Kidd of Casco made a motion to amend the article by adding $10,000 for the purpose of supplementing the sports at Lake Region High School that are designated as pay-to-play activities.

Brook Sulloway, who is the volunteer coach for boys' tennis at LRHS, spoke in favor of Kidd's proposed amendment, saying that last year, in order to reach the level-funding goal set by the school board, "$20,000 was taken out of athletics," which resulted in Nordic skiing and boys' tennis being eliminated, he said. He noted that Athletic Drector Paul True told him varsity boys' tennis could be offered at a cost of approximately $5,000.

"We only have four spring sports," said Sulloway, "and two are funded."

"Our job here is to keep kids active," Sulloway said further. "Tennis is a life-long sport — we should be trying to provide opportunities, not eliminate them — and we're trying to fight obesity. When you (the school board) said we need to stay at a level budget, we shoot ourselves in the foot and we need to get it to heal."

Dr. Beecher explained that some high school sports — lacrosse, ice hockey and girls' volleyball — are called "club sports."

Explaining why those sports are pay-to-play, Dr. Beecher said, "The board felt we didn't have the funding (for those sports) and they wanted to do it (offer them) in a creative way."

Kidd's amendment to add the $10,000 to Article 5 was approved by the voters, and it was passed in the amended amount of $446,642, with about half dozen voters opposed.

Articles 6 and 7 — asking $2,420,155 for Student and Staff Support and $778,795 for System Administration, respectively, passed without any discussion whatsoever. However, that was not the case, regarding Article 8 — School Administration, budgeted at $1,209,048.

Bill Vincent of Bridgton asked what the $31,376 in that cost center was for, and Dr. Beecher replied that it is for salaries and benefits increases "for principals and all administrators."

When Moderator Robinson said the motion to approve Article 8 as written had passed by a show of hands, Carmel Collins of Bridgton asked for a recount of the vote.  The recount showed 55 in favor and 62 opposed — so the article failed to pass.

Kidd then offered an amendment to reduce the amount for Article 8 by the $31,376.

At this point, Dr. Beecher explained that the District has three groups with which it has negotiated bargaining agreements.

"The only way we could make that cut would be somewhere in administration and secretaries at school offices," said Dr. Beecher.

"We would have to assess how we take that cut," she stated.

John Tingley of Naples asked how much of a percentage increase the employees in those categories were receiving.

Dr. Beecher replied, "The Administration group is currently in negotiations, so we don't have an amount yet."

The superintendent said all of the bargaining units, or associations, would be having a four percent increase in health insurance coverage.

"That part we know — the salaries we don't know — they're in negotiations, at this point," said Supt. Beecher.

Longtime SAD 61 Director Phil Shane of Casco stood up and walked to the public microphone on the gymnasium floor.

Said Shane, "I'm sort of disappointed in the staff of Lake Region voting this down — these are the people who support you! I'm kind of disappointed, seeing that."

"There has not been a zero increase for any of the negotiated groups in the last five years," said Supt. Beecher, in response to a voter's question.

Jan Piper of Sebago then asked for a written ballot on Article 8, saying, "It's very difficult to vote by hand about your boss..."

The amendment to reduce Article 8 by the $31,376 failed, by a vote of 55 in favor and 67 opposed. The article then passed, as written.

Request to reconsider Article 2 nixed by moderator

When Grant Plummer asked to have a reconsideration of the vote on Article 2 to "reinstate the $25,8233 removed previously, Moderator Robinson refused, ruling the request as "out of order." However, Naples Town Manager Derik Goodine brought up a "point of order," saying Robert's Rules of Order allow such a reconsideration. Robinson said he would have allowed it, had there been a second to Plummer's amendment.

Plummer once again made the motion to reconsider Article 2 and James Gerry of Casco seconded Plummer's motion.

Robinson said the voting body present would have to approve reconsideration of any warrant article.

Sulloway said, "A motion was brought forward that passed — I think you had the support of the public — another motion broke even — it's a done deal — I recommend we not reconsider Article 2." The voters agreed with Sulloway, defeating the motion to reconsider Article 2, with only 20 or so people opposed.

A motion to amend Article 19 by reducing the amount for Adult Education made by Marie Caron of Naples failed overwhelmingly, and the article passed in the original amount of $317,615. ­

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