SAD 61 tries to get below 3% budget hike

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Snip. Snip. Snip.

Reviewing a list of 18 items, Finance Committee members sliced $1,025,655 from the proposed SAD 61 budget to drop the anticipated school spending increase to 3.04%.

After discussing each line, the group last Thursday night asked Superintendent of Schools Al Smith and Finance Coordinator Sherrie Small to dig a little deeper to find a few more cuts that could drop the increase to under 3%.

Smith and Small felt they could indeed find those savings without impacting student education.

Items reviewed were:

Bus purchase, $85,000, out of budget. Initially, the request was for two buses.

Songo Locks portable, $91,000, to be funded through fund balance money.

LRHS elevator, $85,000, funds from the undesignated fund balance will be shifted to the Capital Reserve account to pay for this item.

Facilities projects, $270,000. Small said the project list was “bigger than normal,” and $270,000 was pulled, for now.

Facilities equipment, $17,900.

Standard Interventionists, $35,000 plus $2,013 in benefits. The interventionist provided remedial help at three elementary schools.

LRHS secretary, $36,000 plus 12,248 in benefits. With the retirement of a staff member, the number of secretary positions will be reduced from five to four. There will be some shuffling of duties amongst the remaining four to absorb the reduction of one position.

LRVC retirement, $38,000.

CSR teacher, $36,000 plus $2,500 benefits. The position will be retained, but will be funded with Title II grant money, not local taxpayer funds.

Athletics, $4,000.

LRMS Library, five additional days over the summer, $2,000.

LRHS retirement, $68,000 plus $9,933 benefits, not filling this position (An Alternative Ed instructor. Officials plan to continue the program with two instructors and utilize some high school teachers to cover math and science.)

Business Office software maintenance, $5,000.

Copier equipment, $10,000.

SBES teacher, $33,940 plus $11,621 benefits.

District-Wide Curriculum, $30,000. This includes salaries, professional development, supplies and books.

LRHS equipment, $10,000.

Retirements (eight at $15,000, $105,000 plus $25,000 benefits).

Sebago Director Joe McMahon, who is not a member of the Finance Committee but was in attendance, noted that the district’s Fund Balance is at $1 million, the Undesignated Fund Balance is at $2.3 million, and the Capital Reserve sits at $485,000.

He felt that the district could address one of the two parking lot projects — either at the middle school or Songo Locks Elementary — without seeking more tax dollars. McMahon thought it would be a “stretch” to be able to fund both projects this coming fiscal year.

Finance Committee member Phil Shane of Casco felt one line that seems out of control is benefits.

“How can you afford increases in benefits of $500,000 a year? A fifth of the budget is benefits. It’s gotten ridiculous,” he said. “ I don’t know what you can do.”

Smith reiterated that when developing the budget he looks to provide a quality educational experience for students while finding a tax line that is “reasonable” for district taxpayers. He added that based on current educational budget discussions in Augusta, it is likely that SAD 61 will not receive a funding figure until mid-June.

Smith pointed out that if the school board decided to fund a bus purchase with Capital Reserve money, the budget increase would dip below the desired 3%, likely down to 2.8%.

(Note: Other Finance Committee members in attendance were Stan Buchanan of Casco, Karen Eller of Bridgton and chairman Karla Swanson-Murphy.)

The full school board will get a look at the proposed budget at their Wednesday, March 22 meeting in the LRVC Great Room at 6 p.m.

A public hearing will be held on Monday, April 3 at 6 p.m. in the Great Room.

The school board will vote on the budget and sign warrants at LRVC on Monday, April 10 at 7 p.m.

The district budget meeting is slated for Tuesday, May 23 at 6:30 p.m. in the LRHS gym.

The budget validation referendum in all four district towns takes place on Tuesday, June 6.

Meeting with town officials. Area selectmen and town managers have been invited to meet with the school board on Thursday, March 23 at 7 p.m. in the Great Room at Lake Region Vocational Center to review the preliminary budget for the 2017-18 school year.

Officials will also review where SAD 61 stands in regards to Sebago’s withdrawal proposal.

Superintendent Smith also plans to schedule dates to meet with each town individually for a more in-depth budget discussion.

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