June 18, 2018
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Consolidation fine hangs up budget process for SAD 68

By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — SAD 68’s directors have a budget dilemma that stems from the failed administrative reorganization plan earlier this year.

The Department of Education has said the district will be penalized $175,000 for not reorganizing, but the Legislature is considering several proposals that could reject the penalties and the reorganization effort.

The district has two options: It could adopt a budget, take the spending plan to a budget meeting and referendum and be wrong, and then have to repeat the process with new figures, or it could wait until the district knows for sure what’s going to happen, Superintendent Ann Bridge said Friday.

So far, the district has decided on the latter. Because of that, it’s possible the budget meeting and validation referendum will not be held until after the first of July, which is the state’s deadline for reorganization plans to take effect.

“We’re still waiting, obviously, on what the state’s going to do about this $175,000 penalty, so that’s hung us out to dry,” Bridge said.

The district has already made more than $600,000 in cuts from the first to the last budget draft to close the funding gap without even considering the penalty, according to Bridge. If the penalty is imposed, further reductions will be needed.

Cuts made to date include elimination of a special education position because of declining enrollment and four classroom positions. With the closing of the Monson school, those pupils next year will be integrated into the classrooms at the SeDoMoCha campus, eliminating the need for some teachers. In addition, a second-grade position and a fifth-grade position will be eliminated. Pupils will still have a full complement of subjects, including science, Bridge said.

In addition, elementary art and music have been reduced to three days a week, which reduced those teaching positions. The kindergarten and first grade will have 45 minutes of music and art each week, and second- through fourth-graders will have 60 minutes of music and art each week, all of which fits into a three-day sched-ule, Bridge noted.

“This particular move is driven by economics and declining enrollment,” Bridge said. “We can’t afford to keep people employed when the work isn’t there.”

Bridge said that while directors have cut more than $600,000, the district has had to put more than $150,000 into the current teachers contract. The teachers have had scale and step increases in the last three years that totaled approximately $120,000, $140,000 and $150,000, she said.

Negotiations for a new teachers contract are under way, according to Bridge. The current contract expires in August.

Negotiations have not yet begun for the education technician master contract, which expires in June.

Another budget workshop will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 27, at SeDoMoCha’s multipurpose room. The workshop will not be open for public comment, but the public is welcome and may observe firsthand, Bridge said.

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