SAD 61 rolls out proposed budget

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

With SAD 61 facing “unchartered” waters as administrators and school board members pieced together the next budget, the waves proved not as choppy as expected.

One element was to develop a budget without Sebago, which will leave SAD 61 in June. What is lost?

  • State funding will be reduced by an estimated $225,000.
  • Sebago’s assessment that will be lost is about $3 million. However, Sebago will likely pay SAD 61 about $1,050,000 in the form of tuition for students attending the middle and high schools, as well as special education costs and debt service.
  • SAD 61, however, will not be responsible for Sebago Elementary School, which carried a $1,004,926 budget in 2017-18.
  • SAD 61 could be in line for a state subsidy increase of about $1.6 million if the Legislature approves a new funding model for vocational regions/centers.
  • With a bump in state funding from $1.9 million to $4.3 million, SAD 61 was able to whittled some expenses and produced a proposed $28,990,000 budget, which is $1,022,620 lower than a year ago.
  • Increases for salaries ($630,000) and health insurance ($170,000). Officials had to estimate salary figures for two bargaining units — non-teaching (bus drivers, custodial and food service workers) and administrators — which do not have a current contract for 2018-19.

What does the proposal mean to the three towns?

With adult education money included, Bridgton’s contribution would be $9,265,978 or $414,724 less than last year; Casco would be at $6,370,859 or $254,977 less than 2017-18; and Naples would see an increase ($70,325) to $7,528,727.

School officials plan to reach out to area selectmen regarding the proposal in the upcoming weeks for their comments. A public hearing will be held on April 2 at the LRVC Great Room at 6 p.m., prior to the school board’s regular meeting.

Tough choices

Trimming over $1 million is no easy task.

School Board members gave high marks to the Finance Committee and administrators for putting together a budget that taxpayers can shoulder while also maintaining a solid educational program.

Directors reviewed the “cut list” Monday at a workshop meeting held in the LRVC Great Room. Some notable reductions include:

  • A net six positions were eliminated. Finance Director Sherrie Small noted that all but two positions were left vacant due to resignations or retirements.

Positions eliminated included three technology integrators; 2.9 positions at LRHS (one was a new request); one position at LRMS; one at Stevens Brook (new request) and Songo Locks.

Initially, the Business Management course (marketing, plans, funding) at LRVC was slated for elimination, but directors moved the program to the high school. A half-time program, the second half could be offered to middle schoolers.

The cut was to make way for a new vocational program, Advanced Technology (Microsoft A+ certification, as well as Network Security certifications etc.).

The LRMS position was a French instructor. Superintendent Al Smith pointed out that it has been “virtually impossible” finding a French teacher, either at the middle or high school levels.

In regards to the tech integrators cut, Tech leader Josh Sturk (through a video presentation, he was unable to attend the session) informed the board that in many cases teachers rely on peers for answers regarding tech problems.

Directors Karla Swanson-Murphy of Bridgton and Beth Chaplin of Naples voiced concerns that Schoology remains an inconsistent tool to keep parents informed regarding their student’s academic performance. They cited a lack of consistency in updating grades and assignments. Superintendent Smith feels clearer directives as to what information must be keep current are likely needed.

  • Various maintenance projects were shelved ($206,500). The projects have not necessarily been cut, but may be done before the end of this fiscal year with year-end funds, Small said.

The list includes: generator for Central Office; bathroom dividers at Songo Locks; locker replacement at LRMS and library sun screen; modular unit roof and uni-vent work at LRHS; carpeting and HVAC.

  • Two changes include hiring an assistant special education director and an athletic trainer (the district has contracted with Bridgton Hospital for services, but by employing its own trainer, could better control over the position, $12,000 increase).

Casco Director Stan Buchanan raised questions regarding the steady rise in special education costs. Out-of-district services cost a “minimum of $50,000) and tack on transportation expenses, as well. Board Chairman Janice Barter of Naples noted that the district has five students that require out-of-district services, which carries a price tag of $500,000.











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