SAD 61 proposes $28.4 million budget

THE PRICE TAG

Based on $1.4 million in state subsidy and a 2% budget increase (General Fund, Adult Education and Capital Reserve), the estimated town assessments if the proposed budget passes would be:

Bridgton — $461,385 increase. Bridgton’s share of the school district assessment is 36.24%.

Casco — $84,421 increase. Casco’s share is 23.06%.

Naples — $182,380 increase. Naples’ share is 26.31%.

Sebago — $50,567 decrease. Sebago’s share is 14.39%.

BUDGET DATES

Monday, March 31, 7 p.m., Lake Region Vocational Center, school board to vote on the proposed budget and sign warrants.

• Tuesday, May 6, 6:30 p.m., district budget meeting at Lake Region High School gym.

• Tuesday, May 20, budget validation referendum vote, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Bridgton, Casco, Naples and Sebago.

 

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

A vote to rescind made some teens very happy and possibly made the proposed SAD 61 school budget more palatable for taxpayers.

After hearing an emotional plea from students enrolled in the high school Alternative Education program to leave the program at Crooked River Adult and Community Education Center on Route 11 and not move it to the “White House” portable at Lake Region H.S. and Vocational Center grounds, SAD 61 school board members rescinded a previous vote to reopen Crooked River as an elementary school.

If the facility reverted back to elementary instruction — a move to ease the overpopulated situation at Songo Locks School — the district would need to pump in significant dollars to outfit the building for the change in instruction.

Current programs located there, such as the Alternative Ed and Adult Ed programs, would be relocated. Adult Ed Director Carrie Castonguay reminded the school board at a previous meeting that a move would likely result initially in a decrease in enrollment, which results in revenue loss.

A compelling argument against change came Monday night from Alternative Ed instructor Brian Clark and current students. Clark noted that when the present group of students were enrolled in the high school, they were responsible for nearly 400 behavioral referrals. By placing them in a small workspace, Clark suspects history will repeat itself.

Clark pointed out the successes of the program, especially the fact 31 of 32 students graduated on time, and the one student who did not achieved a General Equivalency Diploma (GED). With LRHS striving to continue improvements in its overall graduation rate, Clark said it would be a mistake to place at-risk students back into an environment in which they failed to realize any success.

“Half of these kids will not graduate if they come back here,” Clark said.

Ashley, a junior in the Alternative Ed program, praised her instructors — Clark and Lynne Harrison — “for bringing me so far.” Another student explained that she suffered tremendous anxiety and was unable to function at the high school. If she had to attend school at the White House, a portable unit located behind the vocational center, she questioned how she would fare.

The emotion displayed by students did move several school board members to change their minds.

Others may have been swayed by fear that taxpayers would reject the budget because of the reopening’s additional cost. Bridgton Selectman Bernie King has heard such grumblings in his community, which would face an additional $180,000 to repurpose CRES.

Barry Johnson, a LRHS teacher and Bridgton resident, suggested the board include a separate line item on the budget warrant regarding the CRES reopening to gauge the public’s opinion.

Woody Woodward of Bridgton, who served on an ad hoc facilities committee, suggested the school district put the brakes on the idea and re-evaluate other options, such as redistricting, before taking such an expensive plunge.

Maureen Casey, a teacher at Songo Locks and a resident of Casco, encouraged the school board to “take a moment and take a breath” — putting off action, at least for now. She believes staff and students continue to do a good job making do with space that is available.

Traffic safety at SLS may be a more pressing and as costly proposition that SAD 61 will need to address soon. The Facilities Committee has started work on this problem. Director of Transportation, Maintenance and Food Service Andy Madura has presented the committee with two concepts for traffic and parking improvements, prepared by engineer Bill Hoffman of Fay, Spoffard and Thorndike of South Portland. The committee tabled action on the proposals.

Ultimately, the board rescinded the vote to reopen CRES by a 9–1 margin (a two-thirds majority was needed).

Budget overview

With state education aid programs expected to take a $9.2 million hit, SAD 61 will feel a slight pinch.

Finance Coordinator Sherrie Small expects the district to lose about $249,335 in state aid, dropping the local number from $1,743,555 last year to $1,494,220 for the 2014–15 fiscal year.

Small gave an overview of the proposed school budget during the public hearing portion of Monday’s meeting.

The proposed budget calls for $28,431,383 — an increase of $502,619 (1.8%) over last year. The Adult Ed budget totals $584,015 — an increase of $8,098 (1.4%), while food service is up 7.4% or $61,495 (salaries and benefits). Directors also agreed to place $50,000 in the capital reserve account.

Debt service still owed includes:

• Stevens Brook renovation, $382,054 annual payment to 2020.

• Lake Region Middle School additional/athletic fields, $205,344 to 2019.

• Lake Region High School/Vocational Center and Educational Service Building project, $1,521,095, to 2026/2030/2031

• State revolving renovation fund (0% interest and 30% forgiven), $49,716, to 2016.

Although the starting goal was to develop a “zero increase budget without having significant impacts on educational programs and services to students,” Small said, the final figure result in a 1.8% hike.

Small pointed out that $886,558 include expenses such as salaries and benefits, charter school tuition and workers’ compensation. The $100,000 in charter school tuition could fluctuate depending on enrollments.

The Leadership Team (administrators) recommended reductions totaling $364,387, but then suggested additions totaling $116,786.

After budget workshop reviews, the school board made the following decisions:

Gifted and Talented, secondary, $13,000

LRHS additional Alternative Ed teacher, No

LRHS K-12 online learning, $8,000

LRMS Family Consumer Science, $28,093

LRMS Applied Learning teacher, No

SBES Grade 5 teacher, $35,977

SLS supplies, No

SES nurse back to six hours per day, $8,384

SES secretary from 6.5 to 7 hours per day, $1,800

Special Ed, OOD Placements, $65,000

Capital Reserve, $50,000

Subtotal: $210,254

The initial health insurance projection was for a 13% increase, but that figure dropped to 9.5%, so $60,000 came off the bottom line.

Total: $150,254

Directors were scheduled to hold a budget workshop yesterday.

 

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