SAD 61 budget passes first test; headed for validation vote

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

The proposed $28.5 million SAD 61 budget cleared its first hurdle Monday night as 64 voters acted upon 21 articles at Lake Region High School.

There was very little discussion regarding the budget that rose 2.3% over last year. The lone change occurred early in evening when resident Trevor Tidd requested that $10,000 be added to Article 5 (other instruction, which includes cocurricular and extracurricular activities and summer school). Tidd asked that the funds be directed to the high school and middle school boys’ and girls’ lacrosse programs, which at this time are “pay-to-play” sports. Other high school sports programs that charge student-athletes to play include volleyball, ice hockey and lacrosse.

Because of tight budgets and wanting to sufficiently fund existing athletic programs, the school board approved requests to offer the three new sports with the stipulation that either students “pay-to-play” to cover expenses, such as uniforms, equipment, officials and busing or rely on outside fundraising. At times, Lake Region High School administration has had a difficult time collecting the fees. At the spring sports meeting, Athletic Director Paul True reminded ice hockey players that they needed to turn in their “pay-to-play” fees, noting that only one player had paid the bill while another had made a half payment.

SAD 61 Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kathleen Beecher pointed out that while Tidd targeted the extra money to the lacrosse programs, “there is no guarantee how they money will be used,” only that the funds were added to the “other instruction” budget line. Dr. Beecher, who is retiring at the end of the school year, duly noted that administration will keep in mind the intent of the added funding.

The motion passed with little opposition.

Area clerks saw a light turnout. The breakdown of registered voters was:

Bridgton — 20

Naples — 14

Casco — 19

Sebago — 11

John Robinson was elected as meeting moderator.

Before action on the articles, SAD 61 Finance Coordinator Sherrie Small gave a quick overview of the proposed budget, pointing out the district is slated to lose another $200,000 in state subsidy. She reported that while the leadership team attempted to bring forth a package with no increase, they found that to reach the target would require deep cuts that could hurt programming. Items “out of their control” included the following increases: salaries/benefits $719,538; charter school tuition $100,000; and worker’s compensation $67,000 — totaling over $866,000 in new costs. Add $50,000 to the budget for capital reserve — which the district has bypassed over the last three years — and the proposed school-spending package reached a 2.3% hike over a year ago.

Small also outlined the expected class sizes for the next school year: Sebago 11 to 19; Stevens Brook 15.5 to 18.5; and Songo Locks 14.5 to 19.

Prior to the addition of the $10,000 for other instruction, towns were expected to see the following if the budget passes the validation referendum, scheduled for Tuesday, May 20 in the four district towns from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. — Bridgton up $450,350; Casco up $77,484; Naples up $174,236; Sebago decreased $54,917.

The warrant included two mandatory written ballots — Article 15 additional local funds (dollars requested beyond the state’s EPS guidelines, which fail to include extracurricular activities, etc. and Article 16, $50,000 for community use of school facilities — which each passed by a 55-7 margin.

Water woes at Songo Locks

Prior to the district budget meeting, SAD 61 held a public hearing regarding the need to add water storage capacity and treatment at Songo Locks School.

Andy Madura, director of transportation, maintenance and food service, reported that SAD 61 was eligible for a (“up to”) $135,824 loan through the Maine Drinking Water Program. Madura gave a brief history regarding the water system at the Naples elementary school facility, which was built in 1992, including that the initial well was on an abutting property, requiring the school district to seek an easement. A second well was tapped in 2009. The district has since dealt with low water yields, as well as the presence of radon.

Madura said the average water usage at the school is 3,800 gallons per day, with the main surge of the supply coming between 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. — when students wash prior to lunch and cleaning of lunch dishes.

The project would increase storage capacity to 4,000 gallons and include a pump and filtration system.

“We went to 4,000 gallons because it will be enough water so that there is no interruptions during the school day,” Madura said.

The question goes before voters at the May 20 referendum.


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