SAD 4 finances bleak, position cuts possible

Posted Dec. 11, 2009, at 9 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:08 p.m.

GUILFORD — The trickle-down of the federal and state budget crisis has created a grim financial outlook for SAD 4, so grim that employees have been told there may be position cuts before the school year ends.

Several factors are contributing to that bleak forecast, according to SAD 4 Superintendent Paul Stearns. Because the two-year state revenues are nearly $400 million less than anticipated, Gov. John Baldacci recently announced midyear cuts in the state budget of $63 million. Of that, about $38 million will be taken from educa-tion.

That move will result in a curtailment for SAD 4 of $108,000. SAD 4 represents the towns of Guilford, Sangerville, Parkman, Abbot, Cambridge and Wellington. Stearns said Thursday that the Legislature plans to produce a supplemental budget that could result in a further hit for education.

“From the adjustments we’ve made— we’ve frozen every line — we think we’re going to make it [through the year without layoffs], but it’s not a guarantee,” Stearns said. Therefore, he said he has informed the entire staff of the budget woes. The district usually has a carry-over at school year end — funds that were not spent through the year — but the loss in subsidy will diminish those funds, he said.

As bleak as this year is, Stearns said the real hit will come in 2011. He said it’s known that the state’s general purpose aid to education has been reduced by $56 million and that there will be a curtailment in education of at least $36 million next year statewide for a $92 million loss statewide.

That will mean the district will lose $300,000 even before the funding formula is applied to determine the district’s state subsidy, Stearns said. Since subsidy is based on state valuations and pupil count, the district will face another loss, he said. The valuation in SAD 4 is up $42 million. “That’s a whopping 12½ percent and the state average is around 3 percent for valuation increase,” he said. Stearns predicts the valuation increase alone will affect the district by about another $200,000. That represents a half-million-dollar loss in the district’s $7 million budget, he said. Faced with that, an enrollment decline of 30 pupils, the regular increases needed in the budget and fixed costs and the result is not a “very pretty picture,” Stearns said.

The district has been given approval to close the last two out-lying elementary schools in Guilford and Parkman after the school year to help consolidate and reduce costs.

“The closing of the schools and restructuring in order to be more efficient will soften the blow but it certainly is not going to come close to bridging that kind of a gap,” Stearns said. “These numbers are pretty staggering.”

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