April 25, 2018
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RSU 24 cuts positions, predicting funding loss

By Rich Hewitt, BDN Staff

ELLSWORTH, Maine — Regional School Union 24 has eliminated three central office positions in the face of anticipated cuts in state subsidy.

RSU 24 Superintendent Bill Webster announced the cuts on Tuesday. Superintendents around the state are anticipating a curtailment in state education subsidy based on information they’ve been receiving from the state in recent months. Webster said the cuts could be as much as $66 million statewide.

“A lot will depend on how much stimulus they take for next year,” he said.

The state has spread much of the federal stimulus funds it will receive — including education funds — over the two years of its state budget, Webster said. Some superintendents, he said, would like to see all of the stimulus spent this year. That would provide a true picture sooner of the magnitude of the state’s financial situation, he said.

Many superintendents in the newly formed districts such as RSU 24 would like to see the stimulus funds spread over the two years.

“That would give us more time to better understand our districts and to better plan for future reductions,” he said.

Either way, there will be what education officials have called a financial “cliff,” when stimulus funds dry up.

Webster said superintendents statewide are scheduled to meet with the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee on Friday. That may provide a clearer picture of what kinds of cuts the school districts will face, he said.

RSU 24 has anticipated the reduction in funds and Webster has previously said that he expects to have to cut more than $1 million from the current RSU budget even before the district begins to develop a budget for the 2010-11 school year.

RSU 24, which was formed in response to the state’s reorganization legislation, represents the 12 towns of Ellsworth, Eastbrook, Mariaville, Gouldsboro, Winter Harbor, Steuben, Lamoine, Franklin, Hancock, Sorrento, Sullivan and Waltham.

Webster said the RSU 24 administrative team members have been reviewing areas of the budget and were scheduled to make recommendations in a meeting set for today. Webster said they will discuss those recommendations in a special school board meeting next week.

He said he does not anticipate any additional central office reductions and expects to retain all teaching positions and programs for the school year that begins next week.

“That depends on the size of the state curtailment,” he said. “That could change. I hope it doesn’t.”

Looking ahead, however, the picture could change as the district works on cutting the budget and as the state cuts subsidies.

“It depends on whether that curtailment is immediate or whether it’s next year,” he said. “We hope it’s next year.”

The reality, Webster said, is that teaching positions account for 85 percent of the district’s costs. Reducing the budget will likely mean cutting positions.

“Unfortunately, it’s going to involve people,” he said.

Of the three positions eliminated, Webster said, two may have other posts within the district. There are current openings in some of the district’s schools where they may be able to be hired.

The third post was an accounting specialist whose job will end in December when the audit for the former school districts that joined RSU 24 are completed.

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