April 26, 2018
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SAD 53 reviews options with funding cuts

By Christopher Cousins, BDN Staff

PITTSFIELD, Maine — In response to reduced revenues from the state now and in the future, board members and administrators for SAD 53 are considering closing and selling its central office building and closing Burnham Village School.

In addition, Superintendent Michael Gallagher and the district’s budget committee have recommended that the board consider eliminating a custodian, a secretary, three teachers and an assistant principal. Also under consideration is discontinuing adult education, which would affect high school students who need to repeat classes, though the budget committee asked Gallagher to avoid that if possible.

Implementation of these recommendations, which isn’t certain until the board finishes work on the fiscal year 2011 budget, would save in excess of $300,000 in SAD 53, which includes Pittsfield, Burnham and Detroit.

Closure of the central offices would send administrators and support personnel to locations throughout the district. Closing Burnham Village School would move kindergartners to Manson Park School in Pittsfield. First-graders would be moved from Manson Park School to Vickery School, also in Pittsfield, requiring two portable classrooms.

Gallagher said shuffling students around this way would reduce transportation costs and allow for a full-day kindergarten program.

Because of decreasing revenues at the state level, the Legislature has reduced spending by hundreds of thousands of dollars in the last two years, including funding to public education. Under consideration in Augusta is a bill that would reduce the state budget by $438 million in the current two-year budget, which lasts until June 30, 2011.

What that means for SAD 53, according to Gallagher, is a spending freeze in the current year, excluding maintenance and textbooks, which will save some of the proposed $122,000 funding cut from the state. The board will discuss that and other ideas at its meeting Monday night. Gallagher said Friday that he thought the revenue problem in the current year could be solved without cuts to programs that would directly affect students. SAD 53’s budget for the current year is about $10.2 million.

Because of subsidy cuts and proposed adjustments to the state’s formulas for determining how much local municipalities should pay in the Essential Programs and Services program and a proposed 2 percent cut to what towns can pay for tuition at private schools, the budget bill under consideration could cost SAD 53 more than $600,000 in fiscal year 2011. SAD 53 pays tuition to send its ninth- through 12th-grade students to Maine Central Institute. The amount the district pays to MCI is determined by the state.

One silver lining in what is otherwise a bleak budget situation is that the valuations of the district’s three towns have not kept up with the state’s average, which could have a positive impact on the 2011 district budget, which is already being developed, said Gallagher.

“We’re still trying to achieve a zero percent increase in local taxes,” he said. “That’s the challenge and our goal, while still maintaining an acceptable education program. Most of our ideas don’t have an impact on reduced programming for students.”

Monday’s board meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Warsaw School library in Pittsfield.

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