Selectmen to protest teacher pension costs

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Bridgton Selectmen are sending a protest letter to the state over being part of the only school district in the state that pays 100% of the cost of teachers’ pensions.

The SAD 61 School Budget for next year includes $357,550 for teacher retirement funding, which the district has no control over, Superintendent Kathleen Beecher told the board Tuesday. “We pay the highest amount in the state, and we have no help,” she said, as she reviewed the $27.9 million school budget that district voters will decide on Tuesday, May 7, at a 6:30 p.m. meeting at Lake Region High School.

A school budget validation referendum is scheduled for Bridgton voters on Tuesday, May 21. The school budget reflects a 5.7% increase, of which only 2.4% is within district control, Beecher said.

She said the district created a “needs-based budget,” in which all spending was reviewed very carefully. “Those things that are left are things that we really, really, truly need,” she said.

Bridgton’s portion to be raised in support of school spending this year is $8,679,801.

Also on Tuesday, Selectmen finalized the municipal budget, which came in at $6,206,386 this year. When combined with the $610,333 in county spending and Bridgton’s share of school spending, the overall increase is just over 5%. Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz said the $15,496,520 total budget will be offset by an estimated $1,952,289 in revenues, for a net budget of $13,544,231.

If approved by voters at Town Meeting June 12, the projected tax rate would rise to $13.70 per thousand of valuation, which is 66 cents higher than last year. The impact on taxes for a property valued at $100,000 would be a $66 increase in the tax bill, Berkowitz said.

The numbers are based on the full loss expected in state revenue sharing, he noted, and could change if some of those revenues are reinstated.

Fire department budget loose ends

The board has until its next meeting to decide whether it wants to add possibly $15,000 back into the fire department budget to address furnace problems at the West Bridgton Fire Station. They had decided to cut a $33,000 capital request for an addition to be built in back of the station.

But Budget Advisory Committee Chairman said the sad state of the furnace there is an underlying concern that should not be ignored. “I really wish you’d reconsider,” Vincent said, and not delay on making at least basic improvements at the aging station. The furnace is not only malfunctioning, he said, it is unsafe.

“It really is a matter of danger,” said Vincent.

Assistant Fire Chief Todd Perreault said firefighters have not had a chance to come up with job descriptions for the district chiefs in the wake of Tim Cook’s retirement as assistant chief. He urged the board once again to leave a $5,100 stipend amount for an assistant chief position untouched, saying the money will be needed to pay for extra time spent doing the assistant chief duties.  

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