HOLDEN, Maine — The SAD 63 budget for next year is less than this year’s, but the amount residents in the district’s three towns will pay is still increasing, school board Chairwoman Therese Anderson said Tuesday.
“Our last budget and finance meeting to go over any changes is” 5:30 p.m. today, she said. “We’re still trying to find savings.”
The annual budget hearing begins at 7 p.m. at Holbrook Middle School. The nearly $9 million budget for fiscal year 2010-11 must be approved by residents at tonight’s meeting and again at the budget referendum, scheduled for early June.
“If the budget is passed as it stands right now, there will be an increase in property taxes for all three towns” in the district, Anderson said.
SAD 63 comprises Holden, Eddington and Clifton.
“We’ve made cuts,” Anderson said, adding that those cuts have been offset by decreases in state funding, penalties for not consolidating, and settlement of a multicount lawsuit with fired Superintendent Louise Regan.
“When we started out the deficit was about $800,000,” Anderson said. “The state really nailed us this year. We’ve done a lot of refiguring and cutting and really working the budget.”
The state decreased the amount it will pay for education by around $145,000, the settlement with Regan is costing taxpayers a one-time payment of $125,000, and the estimated penalty for not consolidating is $178,000, she said.
“That’s a huge chunk,” Anderson said of the penalty. “That is a huge strain on the budget. That’s more than three teachers for us.”
The school department is “trying to appeal to the new commissioner [to drop the penalty],” she said. “We are doing our best … but we really have not had any success working with the potential partners.”
The school district was successful in getting the school consolidation penalty dropped last year.
The good news is that no teaching positions have been cut under the draft budget, though some education technicians positions will be eliminated, and all salaries have been frozen, she said.
There also are some proposed bus route changes, and school officials are considering adding a week of vacation at the end of December in order to save on heating and operation costs.
The cuts are “a lot of little things,” Anderson said. “There aren’t a lot of big things.”
This year’s fiscal year 2009-10 budget was $9,388,372, and residents in the three towns paid around $4,191,710. The proposed figures for the budget will be made final during tonight’s budget meeting and will be presented to residents at the budget hearing later that night, Anderson said.
“It’s hard for everybody right now,” she said. “This year is difficult, and next year, possibly, is going to be difficult as well.”