May 27, 2018
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RSU 25 board OKs incentive for retirement

By Rich Hewitt, BDN Staff

BUCKSPORT, Maine — The RSU 25 school board on Friday approved a teacher retirement incentive as one way to deal with the drop in state aid to the district.

“This is a cost-saving measure,” said Superintendent Jim Boothby.

The incentive will be offered only to teachers eligible for retirement. Through the incentive, the district will extend the opportunity for those qualified to receive $8,000 paid over two installments in the current year and next year. Those teachers also could choose to use that amount to offset their cost of continued health insur-ance.

The offer, Boothby said, is contingent upon at least eight teachers opting to accept the package. If, however, the district has more than 10 teachers willing to accept the offer, the incentive will increase to $9,000, he said.

There are a total of 16 teachers throughout the school district who are eligible to retire.

The RSU serves the towns of Bucksport, Orland, Verona Island and Prospect.

The incentive offer is an outgrowth of ongoing teacher contract negotiations.

“We dealt with this separately in order to give those teachers the opportunity to make decisions,” Boothby said.

The retirement incentive is one of a number of steps the RSU board is taking in an effort to deal with declining state funding this year and additional cuts in state aid in the coming years.

Although the latest estimates from the state have added some subsidy back into the RSU allotment, state aid for next year is down about $1 million from the current year.

This year, the district received approximately $5,555,000 in general purpose aid, or GPA, from the state. Next year, based on the latest figures, RSU 25 will receive about $4,540,000.

That trend will continue, Boothby said.

“The projections for the next two years are for a decline in GPA subsidies,” he said.

In addition to the state’s budget woes, which have forced cuts throughout state government, the RSU continues to see a reduction in the student population and an increase in valuation, both of which result in an increase in the local share and a decrease in the state share of education funding.

Also, Boothby noted that federal stimulus funds, which have been used as stabilization funds by the state to offset the effect of declining state aid, will end after next year.

“Next year, those stabilization funds disappear and that’s going to create a cliff,” he said.

That cliff is a steep one. This year, of the $5.5 million in state aid, $342,000 was federal stabilization funds. Next year, the $4.5 million subsidy includes $493,000 in federal funding.

The year after that, those federal funds are scheduled to be gone.

“We’re doing everything we can to be responsive to what’s coming up in the next years,” Boothby said.

That includes sharpening pencils as the board develops a district budget for the coming year. The latest draft of the budget is about 8 percent lower than the current year’s budget, a reduction of $1,158,000. That reduction has an effect throughout the district and includes the elimination of the equivalent of about 25 full-time po-sitions.

Some of those positions already are vacant and would not be filled. Some of the positions are part-time positions, Boothby said, so it is possible that more than 25 people could be affected by the cuts if they are approved. Some of the positions vacated as a result of the retirement incentive could be among those positions.

The draft budget also calls for consolidating the entire grades five-eight program at Bucksport Middle School. That would mean moving the Orland grades five-eight students to Bucksport.

The budget is still in draft form and nothing has been decided yet, Boothby said. The next board meeting, which will include a review of the latest budget draft, is set for April 6.

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