Jobs safe for now at Belfast schools

Posted Dec. 01, 2008, at 9:32 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — It appears that SAD 34 will be able to handle this school year’s reduction in state funding without cutting personnel.

Superintendent of Schools Bruce Mailloux said strict monitoring of the district’s internal cost controls and grant revenues stronger than anticipated should offset the loss of state subsidy.

“I think we can get by without having to lay anyone off,” Mailloux said Monday. “If this is the only curtailment we get from the state we should be able to get through the end of the school year without layoffs. But if there are any other curtailments, all bets are off.”

Mailloux said the Department of Education told him a week ago of its plans to reduce the school’s subsidy payment by $259,596. That figure represents about 3 percent of the state’s annual subsidy and just over 1 percent of the district’s budget.

The state cuts were made in response to Gov. John Baldacci’s edict that all spending by state departments needed to be reduced by 10 percent this year to offset a projected shortfall in state revenues.

In response to the notification, Mailloux said, the district has instituted a spending freeze between now and the end of the school year. He said only expenditures needed to meet educational needs would be considered for approval. All other spending requests likely would be denied, he said.

“Any purchases have to be approved and reviewed and obviously have to be necessary,” he said.

Mailloux said the district also has eliminated all field trips and reimbursements for professional development and any course work except those required for teacher recertification.

“I think through these cost saving measures we should be able to take care of what the state will be holding back,” he said.

Mailloux said his real concern was for the 2009-10 budget year. He said the flat funding already imposed by education Commissioner Susan A. Gendron for that year’s budget will mean the subsidy will be at the same level next year as it is this year.

“We just lost $259,000 for this year and another $259,000 is going to lost next year as well,” he said.

Mailloux said planning for next year’s budget was already under way. He said that budget will be for the combined Regional School Unit of SAD 34 and SAD 56 in Searsport, which won voter approval last month. He said any decisions about personnel cuts for the 2009-10 year would have to be made in that budget. Although the RSU will be governed by a new 18-member school board, its first budget will be prepared by the existing school boards from SAD 34 and SAD 56.

“If we have to cut positions for the coming year, that responsibility will be with the current board,” he said.

The new RSU will be made up of students from the SAD 34 communities of Belfast, Belmont, Morrill, Northport, Searsmont and Swanville and the SAD 56 towns of Frankfort, Searsport and Stockton Springs.

The 18-member school board for the new district will have six members from Belfast, three from Searsport, two each from Stockton Springs and Northport, and one each from Belmont, Frankfort, Morrill, Searsmont and Swanville.

The election for the RSU school board will be held in the member communities Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2009. Nomination papers will be available at municipal offices beginning Tuesday, Dec. 2, and candidates will have 10 days to file the required 25 signatures to be placed on the ballot.

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