Schools look to offset reduced state subsidies

Posted Feb. 03, 2010, at 8:14 p.m.

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — While all Penquis area schools will suffer from reduced state subsidies announced this week by the Department of Education, SAD 68 will really feel the pain.

The district is among the top three or four districts in the state to lose the most state subsidy, according to SAD 68 Superintendent Alan Smith. While the district had a slight decline in enrollment, which affected the subsidy, the biggest factor for the reduction of about $757,000, was state valuations, he said Wednesday.

“The state valuation went absolutely through the roof,” Smith said. The average of the valuation increase in the district’s towns of Dover-Foxcroft, Charleston, Monson and Sebec was 13.5 percent, which exceeded the state break-off point of 13.1 percent, he said. In addition, the district will lose $192,000 as its penalty for not having found another district in which to consolidate. “We’re over $948,000 in lost revenue from the state, that’s 10.4 percent of our budget,” he said.

“What we’re obviously doing at this point is looking at every department,” Smith said. “Unfortunately it will mean we’re going to have to take a very hard look at programs and people and try to do the best we can to minimize the educational damage for students.”

That same hard look also will be taken by other Penquis superintendents to cover their losses.

Greenville, part of Union 60, which already funds most of the education for its pupils, will lose $89,925. That will result in the state contributing just $75,000 to educate pupils. In addition, the Union 60 towns of Beaver Cove, Shirley and Willimantic, which educate their pupils in Greenville, also will lose a total of $15,143.

“I think we’re going to be able to weather the storm for this fiscal year,” Perry said Tuesday, but added she’s worried about the next year.

Perry, who also serves as superintendent of SAD 12 in Jackman, said that district will lose $57,351 in state subsidy. Since it receives a lot of state aid, having received $849,488 last year, the impact is going to be greater, she said. Like Greenville, Perry said SAD 12 is in good standing for the next fiscal year because of action taken earlier in anticipation of the state cuts.

“Superintendents understand the situation; I mean, when there’s no money, there’s just no money,” Perry said. “The revenue shortfalls at the state level are just increasingly large and something has to be done to cut them.”

SAD 4 Superintendent Paul Stearns said the reduction in state subsidy will mean $666,676 or 9.9 percent less to the district representing Guilford, Sangerville, Abbot, Parkman, Wellington and Cambridge. What affected the district’s subsidy, Stearns said, was a 13-percent increase in state valuation and a reduction of 40 pupils.

“We were and continue to be one of the most efficient school districts in the state of Maine,” Stearns said Tuesday. In an analogy, Stearns compared the district to a very thin person who, all of sudden, is forced on a diet, as opposed to a district with a larger girth that could stand to shed a few pounds. The district’s voters had approved the closure of two schools later this year to reduce costs. The latest subsidy loss will mean reductions in staff and losses of programs, he said. “Tough choices will need to be made.”

SAD 46 and Harmony, which represent Alternative Organizational Structure 94, will lose $326,107 in state subsidy, according to Superintendent Kevin Jordan. “We’re OK in the sense that this is not a surprise; we’re not OK in the sense that this certainly is going to mean some serious consideration amongst the budget commit-tee [members] looking at programming and looking at staffing,” Jordan said Wednesday. “Any review of the budget we do, we certainly have students in mind, but we also have the local taxpayers in mind.”

SAD 41 Superintendent Michael Wright of the Milo-Brownville region could not be reached for comment Tuesday or Wednesday.

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