Superintendent feels 2.6% SAD 61 hike ‘fiscally responsibile’

By Wayne E. Rivet
Staff Writer

It took two rounds of budget reductions, but Superintendent Al Smith ­believes SAD 61 has reached a level of funding for 2019-2020 that is “fiscally responsible.”
With some revenue figures still up in the air due to some uncertainty coming out of Augusta, the figure the school board feels “comfortable” with calls for a 2.6% increase.
Smith noted during Monday night’s budget workshop at Lake Region Vocational Center’s Great Room the proposed reductions to reach 2.6% presented no impact to student programming or staffing.
A third round, which Smith was against, cut two positions — a Grade 1 teacher at Stevens Brook Elementary School ($60,000) and a .6 art teacher at Lake Region High School ($30,000). Those cuts would drop the proposed increase to 2.3%.
Finance Committee chairman Karla Swanson-Murphy reviewed the budget creation process, which included presentations to the group by administrators. Initial figures pushed the budget higher than the committee had targeted, so reductions were called for.
Round 1 trimmed $365,199. The list included:
• Lake Region Middle School supplies and equipment, $10,000
• Lake Region High School equipment, $23,599; professional development, $6,000; Naviance, $6,500; Tuition, student, $2,000.
Naviance is an American college and career readiness software provider that partners with high school and other K-12 institutions to provide students with college planning career assessment tools. This will be used by and through the H.S. Guidance department.
• Transportation camera system, $1,100; utility driver, $25,000
• Operations/Maintenance equipment, $30,000; special projects, $261,000.
Yet, the cut wasn’t deep enough, leaving the proposed budget at a 4.8% increase.
“It was still way high to where we wanted to be,” Smith said. “We want to be fiscally responsible.”
Round 2 cuts totaled $670,692, reaching the 2.6% increase mark. Those cuts included:
• Operation/Maintenance equipment, $6,900; HVAC upgrades, $10,000; high school custodian (salary and benefits), $67,372; additional equipment and projects, $100,000
Superintendent Smith noted that Andy Madura, director of Transportation, Maintenance and Food Services, had proposed a “floater” custodian to be immediately available to fill in district-wide.
• Songo Locks School Grade 3-5 teacher, $40,000.
“We keep the student classroom numbers lower in grades K-2 than 3-5. The class moving up into the higher grades numbers will only need four classroom teachers as appose to five as the class size will be slightly higher as the second grade moves to third grade,” Smith noted.
Example: 12 to 14 students in the lower grades 17 to 18, with occasionally a high of 20 in grades 3-5.
• Lake Region Middle School special education teacher, $67,000.
“The LRMS special ed person was hired a couple of years ago as we had a bubble of special ed students in the middle school for the past two years. These students are now moving to the high school where staffing is not an issue. Thus, this position is no longer needed,” Smith pointed out.
• Lake Region High School retirements, $20,000; equipment, $20,000
• Special Education difference of assistant director vs. IEP coordinator, $30,000; three-day per week IEP coordinator, $30,000.
“This past year instead of hiring just an IEP coordinator, we added an Assistant Special Ed Director. Thinking that would work as we no longer had to provide IEP service or special education services to the elementary school in Sebago. However, due to all that goes on in the world of special education, the things that still needed to get done with IEPs were more challenging to achieve than we had thought,” Smith said. “Thus, we are going back to just a full-time IEP coordinator and no longer having the Assistant Director role.”
• Songo Locks School portables (use fund balance), $87,420
• District-wide miscellaneous accounts, $110,000
• Technology, miscellaneous supplies, $22,000
• Lake Region Vocational Center supplies, testing (use of 2018-19 year-end funds and Perkins Grant funds), $60,000.
Smith expects concrete numbers from the state by the end of March, and once in place, school officials will present the proposed to Bridgton, Casco and Naples selectmen.
“We feel we are heading in the right direction,” Smith said.
In other school news:
Principals resign. SAD 61 will be searching for two new principals for the next school year. Resignations for Cheryl Cline (Songo Locks Elementary) and Erik Good (Lake Region High School) were accepted by the school board.
Superintendent Smith said the district will explore a “couple of options” and expects to begin the advertising process next month. Smith likes to whittle down the list of candidates to four, then turning over interviews to a search committee, which consists of teachers and administrators.
Also on the personnel front, Deborah Farrar, a Title 1 teacher at Songo Locks, will retire at the end of school year.

Please follow and like us: