Some good news for SAD 72 budget

By Lisa Williams Ackley

Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — There is some “good news” in the proposed School Administrative District 72 budget for 2012-13, Superintendent of Schools Gary MacDonald told school board members here last week.

The good news:

• State subsidy is about the same as last year;

• There is a larger balance forward than anticipated;

• The District set aside $500,000 last year for the FY 13 “funding cliff”;

• There is a savings in tuition paid to Fryeburg Academy, due to decreased enrollment and the Insured Value Factor (IVF) is at 5%; and

• The SAD 72 staff has been excellent in understanding budget challenges.

“Every year, you and I know taxpayers are having a hard time — everyone knows that,” Supt. MacDonald told the school board members March 21. “So, the critical question is, ‘To what degree can we provide for the educational needs of the students, while being sensitive to the local taxpayer’s situation?’ That’s the question you’re facing on April 11 (when they sign the budget warrants) — and the ultimate decision the taxpayers will make (at the May 24 budget approval meeting).”

The superintendent presented an overview of the budget proposed for FY 2012-13 on March 21, but said the final figures will not be ready until next week’s school board meeting on March 28.

MacDonald pointed out that the budget proposed in FY 2011-12 was $908,206 less than in FY 2007-08, “due to budget reductions over the last few years.”

“But, those have come at a cost,” Supt. MacDonald said.

The state subsidy received for FY 2011-12 was $3,152,055, while it is anticipated to be $3,146,906 for 2012-13 or  $5,149 less.

State subsidy was projected to be 55% in FY 10, the superintendent said, but is now less than 27% for SAD 72.

Regarding state subsidy being “about the same as last year,” MacDonald stated, “This is the first year, since I’ve been here, that we haven’t received less — (previously) we lost $2 million in state subsidy, since I’ve been here.”

As for the larger balance carried forward and savings due to decreased enrollment, MacDonald said, “We’re very conservative. The District set aside $500,000 — and we also have decreased enrollment and an IVF at 5%. However, a decrease in enrollment also means we get a reduction in state subsidy. We had a loss (in enrollment) in the District (K through 8) — about the same number as Fryeburg Academy lost — about 60 students. We’re also spending $1.5 million less.”

The superintendent said “staff has been excellent,” particularly by going to places like Ruth’s Reuseables in South Portland and “filling up their cars” with supplies for their students.

Summarizing, Supt. MacDonald pointed out that several positions (K-8) have been eliminated or reduced in the last few years; the budget has been below the CPI (Consumer Price Index) the last four years resulting in very lean budgets  — “we are now barebones,” he said, noting that the CPI this year is 2.9%; the District is currently spending $1,017,403 less than five years ago.

Supt. MacDonald said, “We need to consider the educational impacts for now and the future. Therefore, for the first time in seven years, we are proposing a small increase in academic positions.”

“Facility needs can not be neglected,” the superintendent said. “Therefore, we have proposed increasing the Capital Reserve account.”

The proposed budget, as in other years, has “given expenditures,” or obligations, MacDonald noted. These include Transportation, Special Education, Debt Service, Food Service, Operations (energy and leases), and Grade 9 through 12 cost for the contract with Fryeburg Academy (average state tuition plus 15%) and the IVF.

MacDonald explained that the Insured Value Factor (IVF) are funds paid to town academies (private schools that accept local students) for major capital improvements and renovations to facilities. The District’s current contract with Fryeburg Academy runs from 2004 through 2014.

MacDonald said Article 1 at the annual School District budget meeting is required by state law and asks voters to approve paying Fryeburg Academy more than 5% IVF. Last year, voters opted not to pay more than 5% IVF, MacDonald said, pointing out that no town academy in Maine is receiving more than 5% IVF from their sending school district. Supt. MacDonald said the proposed budget for 2012-13 includes keeping the IVF at 5%. In addition, SAD 72 pays Special Education costs and all required transportation for the students it sends to the Academy, MacDonald said.

As for Debt Service, the superintendent said that SAD 72 is in Year 5 of a five-year payment schedule on the new roof at the New Suncook School in Lovell, with a final payment of $286,296 — and in Year 8 of a 10-year payment schedule for the roof at the Molly Ockett Middle School in Fryeburg for a payment of $64,740 this year.

Budget impacts

The superintendent said there are several budget impacts for 2012-13 that include:

• Fuel increases (diesel, oil, electric);

• Insurance increases (health, liability and property) with health insurance budgeted for a 10% increase, and property and liability insurance being bid out);

• Personnel compensation increases;

• Bus purchases (the state approved only one);

• An increase in Special Education out of district placements;

• Increased legal costs;

• Personnel proposals — adding a .5 Ed Tech at Brownfield-Denmark School for $7,719, a .5 Ed Tech at Molly Ockett Middle School Library for $29,684 and a Technology Education Specialist for $54,405;

• MOMS Alternative programming at approximately $25,000;

• Edulink (a mass notification program) at $1,665; and

• CEPARE program evaluation at $5,000.

New Snow School by fall of 2015?

Addressing Facilities needs for 2012-13, Supt. MacDonald said, “It is critical that we keep up with facility needs using the 5-year facility plan.”

He said the C.A. Snow School building project approved by the state does not have a confirmed timeline, noting that he and other SAD 72 officials have a meeting in Augusta on March 29 about that very subject. MacDonald said there is also a proposal to put an as yet undetermined amount of money in the Capital Reserve Fund “to support the 5-Year Facility Plan.”

“We will find out (at the March 29 meeting in Augusta) if the state is talking three, five or 10 years (until construction can be completed) — but we hope it would be open by September of 2015,” the superintendent said.

“We have a Capital Reserve fund that had been $250,000 but is now down to $7,000,” Supt. MacDonald said.  “So, we hope we can transfer money to that account because our five-year Facilities Plan needs to be looked at.”

How does SAD 72 pay for its budget?

Superintendent MacDonald explained that SAD 72’s budget is paid for through the state subsidy received, the balance carried forward, tuition payments for students from Chatham and Albany New Hampshire, miscellaneous funding and local funding.

Cost center review

The SAD 72 Board of Directors reviewed and tentatively approved the proposed budget amounts for Transportation, Operations and Other Commitments (Debt Service), at their meeting on March 21.

The following costs centers will be reviewed at their next budget review meeting on March 28 at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria at Molly Ockett Middle School: Regular Instruction (Grades K-8 and Grades 9-12), Special Education Instruction, Other Instruction (Gifted and Talented, Co-curricular and Summer School); and Student and Staff Support (Student Support Services — Guidance, Health and Instructional Technology, and Staff Support Services — Improvement of Instruction, Library and Assessment).

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