May 25, 2018
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SAD 53 budget proposal improves

By Sharon Kiley Mack, BDN Staff

PITTSFIELD, Maine — The incorrect calculation of a local funding formula has completely turned the tables on SAD 53’s budget proposal, eliminating the options under consideration to close Burnham Village School or the superintendent’s office.

“I am terribly embarrassed personally and feel horrible about the angst, anger, frustration, other emotions and extra work that was caused because of this error,” Superintendent Michael Gallagher said Tuesday. “However, the good news is that it is in the district’s favor.”

School directors have been worrying for weeks about how to make up what appeared to be a shortfall larger than half a million dollars. Budgets were proposed, discarded, amended and rebuilt.

At their meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, it was expected that one of two options would be finally presented to the board for adoption.

One option called for the closure of Burnham Village School among other cuts. This plan would have shifted which classes attended the three Pittsfield elementary and middle schools, putting fourth-graders at Warsaw Middle School.

While educators said meshing the fourth-graders with the fifth and sixth has great educational benefit, parents have expressed concern that the children are too young to be in the same school with the seventh- and eighth-graders.

The second option would close the Central Office and move the district’s administration into Warsaw.

But a member of the Administrative Office, while reviewing the spreadsheet for Thursday’s meeting, noticed that Gallagher hadn’t computed the formula for Local Additional Funding correctly.

“With the correction, the amount to be cut is $327,351.99 rather than $588,695.27,” Gallagher said. He said his recommendations will now not include closing any schools or offices, and no jobs will be lost.

In addition, these new calculations dramatically decrease the local tax assessment for the district’s three towns. Gallagher said this was the budget committee’s original goal — a zero tax increase.

In Detroit, the assessment would be $14,658 less than last year, or a decrease of 1.82 percent.

At Burnham, the assessment would drop by 2.77 percent or $11,776.

In Pittsfield, due to a larger state valuation that increased the town’s share of the expenses, the tax assessment would increase by 1.21 percent or $25,186.

The bottom line of the 2009-1010 budget is $10.5 million, a decrease of 1.42 percent over last year’s figures. However, $274,330 less in state subsidy funds caused the original shortfall.

If the final budget is adopted on Thursday, it will go before voters on June 17.

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