To reach ‘zero’ target SAD 61 cuts $500,000

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Seeing budget proposals rejected by taxpayers last year and knowing a poor economy continues to hover over the Lake Region, SAD 61 Superintendent Kathy Beecher set a target of a zero increase — excluding debt service (increase of $83,409) and the high school revolving renovation fund loan ($49,716) — for the 2012-2013 budget.

To achieve that target, the district’s Leadership Team and SAD 61 Finance Committee had to cut positions and reduce services to the tune of about $500,000. While some school board members, such as Laurie Mondville of Casco, say the cuts were necessary to gain voter support, other directors including Phil Shane of Casco and Laura Ordway of Bridgton deemed the current cuts as “too severe.”

The public can chime in on the proposed budget this Monday night.

“This is not the budget I would have brought in. It is based on the direction given to me (by the Finance Committee),” Superintendent Beecher said.

Here’s the proposed shopping list:

• Grades K-5 — Reduction of Grade 1, 2 and 5 teachers at Songo Locks Elementary; Reduction of Grade 1and 4 teachers at Stevens Brook Elementary (classroom sizes at SLS Grade 5 and SBES Grade 4 will likely be 24) ; Reduction of a permanent substitute teacher at Sebago Elementary School. Originally, the school board looked to cut nine kindergarten ed techs at the three elementary schools for a reduction of $229,726. At their budget workshop Monday night, directors proposed to restore 6.5 ed techs at a cost of $192,549. Because many elementary school children currently fail to meet basic standards, school administrators and some school board members questioned how this cut will reverse the trend — feeling eliminating support services will add to the downward spiral.

An addition to the budget, however, were 6.5 math/literacy resource facilitators (ed tech III). Some directors felt 6.5 K ed techs should be returned to the budget to go along with the resource facilitators. These items will be up for discussion Monday.

• Middle School — Reduction of three co-curricular stipends.

• High School —  Reduction of two science teachers, 1.5 social studies teaching position, 1.5 math teaching position; reduction of English teacher (.5 full-time employee), performing arts teacher (.4), band teacher (.3); reduction of four stipends.

A library clerk’s time will be increased from .6 to 1.0 FTE.

• Special Education — Reduction of one teacher/evaluator, one secretary; reduction of .1 FTE home/school liaison.

A clerk position will increase by five hours, and two ed techs at the elementary level will be added.

• Vocational Center: Reduction of one business ed teacher.

• Curriculum/Professional Development: Addition of a Response To Intervention (RTI) coordinator/instructor, $1,750 for ELL consultant. The RTI coordinator position is mandated by the federal and state special education regulations as of June 2012.

• Gifted and Talented: Addition of $10,000 for secondary consultant.

• Foreign Languages: No staff reductions or additions.

• Health Services: Reduction of LPN from 35 hours to 27.5 hours per week at Sebago Elementary School.

• Guidance Services: No staff reductions or additions.

• Custodial/Food Service/Busing: Reduction of one special ed driver; reduction of delivery tech from YR to SY; reduction of a crossing guard at Stevens Brook Elementary; reduction of one hour per day for special services custodian.

• Technology: No staff reductions or additions.

• Athletics/Co-Curricular: Reduction of two stipend positions.

• Administration: Songo Locks and Sebago Elementary to share a principal. Monday night, directors put this item back on the table for discussion, believing there is a need to keep an administrator in each building. The proposal was for the SLS principal to work three days a week in Naples and two days in Sebago. A head teacher would be named to serve as the lead administrator at the school during the principal’s absence. To reinstate the position, the cost would be $33,000. Director Shane said the district should keep the status quo, for the time being. “We should leave Sebago alone until we decide what we’re going to do there (keep the school open or close it),” Shane said.

Dr. Beecher felt the district came up with a “good compromise” when officials decided to make the position a Teacher/Principal.

“It’s worked well,” she said. “And we should leave the administrator status the way it is.”

During budget discussions, the idea of redistricting was mentioned.

• Central Office: No staff reductions or additions.

• Adult Education: Reduction of .6 FTE instruction, day care, etc.

Directors also decided to place a line in the maintenance budget — and not as a separate Capital Reserve item —  to address window replacement at the high school. Money has been included to continue PCB removal at LRHS. This cost, as well as installing new windows, is outside of the renovation project. SAD 61 has two years to remove the remaining PCBs, located at the back end of the facility. Directors budgeted $50,000 for new windows, and then added another $50,000. Director Donna Norton asked what the overall cost to complete window upgrades would be since SAD 61 might get a better price if the district was to do the full overhaul at once rather than piecemeal. Dr. Beecher plans to ask Maintenance/Food Service/Transportation Director Andy Madura to generate that figure.

There is also a “Wish List” to consider. Director Ordway pointed out that some items were “pertinent” and worthy of consideration, while others were “truly wishes” based on the idea that if SAD 61 received additional state aid, the items could be possibilities.

Items include: $10,000 to re-instate standards interventionists time at the elementary level; $70,000 for a math/literacy intervention specialist (teacher); $18,000 to create a diversified occupations program for Grade 8 students (this program would be a pilot, similar to what the vocational center offers — a chance for students to learn a skill, such as small engine repair —  to include four students from LRMS, four from SAD 72 and four from SAD 55 with those two districts assisting with cost and personnel); $125,000 for 2.5 teachers for related academics; and the following vocational program equipment — planer and joiner ($1,000), panini grill ($600), compressor ($400), six Plato licenses ($3,600), blood-pressure simulator ($1,000), chair scale ($800), 3-D printer ($20,900), two position (automotive) lifts ($8,000), brake lathe ($7,150) and law enforcement program composite sketch software ($4,000).

SAD 61 received word this week that the state had approved two bus purchases, but had rejected a bus lease/purchase request, which allowed officials to remove $36,612 from the proposed budget.

The budget will be finalized and warrant articles signed in early April.

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