GUILFORD, Maine — SAD 4 directors have adopted a 2009-10 budget of $7.1 million that reflects no increase in assessments over last year in the aggregate to the communities of Guilford, Sangerville, Abbot, Parkman, Cambridge and Wellington.
Despite the zero increase, a shift in state valuations will cause every town but Guilford to see an increase in assessments.
To help offset expenditures, the district applied $449,000 from the fund balance — money that was saved and not used in the current and previous years — to the budget. Another $200,000 is anticipated to be carried forward by June 30, and voters will be asked to place those funds into a dedicated account for renovations and repairs, such as the replacement of a portion of the roof at Piscataquis Community High School.
“We had really hoped we would save a little money and add volume, and now it’s looking more and more like we’ll need to use any savings just to maintain what we currently have,” SAD 4 Superintendent Paul Stearns said Monday.
An informational meeting will be held on the budget at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 26, followed by a district budget vote at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 28, both at Piscataquis Community Middle School. Final action on the spending plan will be decided during a budget validation referendum on June 9.
Stearns said that compared with the current district budget, the 2009-10 budget reflects a decrease of $49,565, even with the loss of $272,027 in subsidy.
Not included in the district’s budget is $124,683 received in stabilization funds through the federal stimulus package. This one-year fund was designed to help bridge the gap of declining state subsidy but cannot be included in the general fund, according to Stearns.
The proposed budget includes a reduction in the hours of a high school teaching position and a reduction of secretarial hours, and it eliminates an educational technician. The additions include a grade two teacher, a part-time computer technician, a grade seven-eight teacher and a study hall monitor.
Stearns said many steps have been taken to help the district’s financial health, including imposing a budget freeze in October 2008 and lowering fuel costs.
The district also plans to close the McKusick Elementary School in Parkman and the Guilford Primary School in the fall of 2011. Since the two schools educate district children, residents in all SAD 4 towns will vote in November on the proposed closings. Those towns that vote to keep the schools open will share the operational costs in addition to their local assessments.
It’s estimated that the closings would save the district about $485,000, Stearns said. The savings, however, can be expected to be absorbed by the loss of more state subsidy, especially in view of the state’s financial problems, Stearns said. Another impact is the fact the state has increased the district’s valuation by $42,000 for 2011.
“The year 2011 [is shaping up] to be an extremely challenging one in school funding,” Stearns said.