GUILFORD, Maine — SAD 4 Superintendent Paul Stearns needed no crystal ball more than a year ago when he recommended that two elementary schools be closed this year.
With the state budget crisis, Stearns knew that education would take a big budget hit, and it did. His district alone lost $500,698 in state subsidy.
Considering the subsidy loss, rising fixed costs, contractual step increases and less revenue elsewhere, the 2010-11 proposed budget of $6,916,372 reflects the elimination of 13 positions effective at the end of this school year.
The school board of directors voted on five of those positions late last year as part of the school closings that voters approved. They included two custodians, a secretary and two special education teachers. Later, the board voted to eliminate a study hall monitor, three education technicians and a literacy coach.
In addition, the budget committee has recommended the elimination of an assistant principal and two classroom teachers. The latter three proposed cuts will be acted on next month when the budget is adopted.
The budget does include the addition of a one-year-only sixth-grade position to reduce class sizes and a prekindergarten position.
“While no one on that board of directors is very happy with having to make those cuts, they also understand the realities of what the taxpayers are facing,” Stearns said Wednesday. “I believe that the budget, as presented last night, will move forward.”
Had directors not closed the schools and moved to consolidate the elementary youngsters into the middle school complex, the district would have faced many more job eliminations, Stearns said. A spending freeze implemented early in the year also saved a couple of positions, he added.
That spending freeze and other efforts helped the district save $180,000, which is being carried forward from 2009-10. Those funds will help offset the spending plan, as will a 2009 fund balance of $332,000 and a consolidation penalty of $132,412 that was waived by the state, according to Stearns.
The proposed budget includes this year’s consolidation penalty of about $140,000, which likely won’t be waived, and is the result of the district failing to consolidate with another school district as required by state law, Stearns said. Unless the Legislature repeals the penalty phase of the consolidation law, the district can expect to pay a penalty each year since only the 2009 penalty was waived, he said.
The proposed budget reflects a decrease of 3.54 percent from the this year; however, the sending towns will see a 4.79 percent increase in assessments. Under the proposed plan, the increases over last year’s assessments will be as follows: Abbot, $9,400; Guilford, $70,806; Parkman, $15,163; Sangerville, $31,225; and Wellington, $1,667. Only Cambridge will see a decrease.