BREWER, Maine — School officials heard Monday that Brewer — and other school districts across the state — soon will face a severe drop in funding that Superintendent Daniel Lee is calling “the cliff.”
The financial cliff Lee referred to is something he has been talking about for more than a year. It is linked directly to the state’s Essential Programs and Services funding and the end of federal stimulus funds, which boosted school budgets statewide this year and last.
Gretchen Gardner, the school district’s business manager, told the Brewer School Committee that the city will face a nearly $1.1 million shortfall next year after federal stimulus funds come to an end and other revenues cease.
Brewer is using $660,597 in stimulus funds to pay for four teachers, two resource officers, six education technicians, supplies and contract services this year. Those funds dry up at the end of the school year, or June 2011.
“That’s 12 positions … funded with this money that is not going to be there” next year, Gardner said.
Add to that the expected decreases in state funding to the tune of nearly $104,000, and the end of Dedham’s need for superintendent and business services, which Brewer now handles, for another decrease of around $102,000.
Around $200,000 of next year’s shortfall is from the added expense of hiring a grade one teacher, an elementary-middle school librarian and facilities director for the new Brewer Elementary Middle School, which is scheduled to open next fall.
Lee said with the loss in stimulus funds and other revenues and the increased costs associated with the new school, “we’re going to be short $1.1 million next spring.”
“And that’s the best-case scenario,” he said.
The good news is that the state has applied for approximately $39 million under the new federal jobs bill, Gardner said, adding that Brewer has applied for $232,711 of that funding.
“We were notified just yesterday that our application was approved,” she said.
Gardner, Lee and other school officials have decided to hold onto the new revenue funds to lessen the impact of the fast-approaching financial cliff.
“I don’t see how it’s possible to get by next year with 12 less teachers,” Chairman Mark Farley said. “It seems to me we cut every year. I don’t know how we cut more.”
Every school district in the state is facing the same financial cliff, Lee said.
“I bet if Bangor did it [outlined the drop in revenues from stimulus funds] or SAD 63 you’d see the same thing,” he said after the meeting ended.
During the meeting, the board also held a first reading of a proposed three-page policy on fundraising activities involving students. The policy basically requires all student fundraising activities to be approved by the student’s principal, that they be supervised, and that collected funds be placed into student activity accounts and disbursed by the school board. The second reading and vote on the proposed policy will take place at the October meeting.