$1 million funding loss may spur cut positions, wages freeze for SAD 1

By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff
Posted March 28, 2011, at 5:46 p.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — After eliminating 28 positions last year, officials in SAD 1 in Presque Isle were hoping they would receive more state and federal aid for education this year to invest back in the district.

Those hopes have been dashed, according to Superintendent Gehrig Johnson, who said Monday that SAD 1 will lose close to $1 million in state and federal aid for the 2011-12 school year. Johnson is working with the school board both to lessen the impact on the district’s educational system and to prevent a significant property tax increase on area residents.

Johnson said SAD 1 will lose $860,181 in state aid and see a decrease of $130,039 in federal funds for the coming school year. He told the school board during a recent meeting that the funding cuts likely will mean the district has to eliminate positions, freeze wages and put off some maintenance projects.

The district consists of Presque Isle, Chapman, Castle Hill, Mapleton and Westfield.

Last year, SAD 1 saw a decrease of $750,000 in state and federal aid. To cope with the situation, the school board eliminated 28 full- and part-time positions, which saved almost $600,000 in employment related costs. The board also reduced other costs for supplies and equipment by over $460,000.

A similar picture is developing for this year, Johnson said Monday.

Johnson said administrators in the district have voluntarily agreed to a salary freeze, which will save an estimated $30,000. Other employees will receive cost of living increases but also see a projected 6 percent increase in medical insurance premiums.

Four teaching positions and three nonteaching slots will be eliminated through attrition. Those include one fourth-grade teacher at Zippel Elementary School, two junior high positions at Presque Isle Middle School, two custodians, one bus driver, and an English department position at Presque Isle High School. Four teachers also have voluntarily retired under a new incentive program introduced in the district last month.

At this point, Johnson said, it does not look like anyone in the district will lose their jobs because of the budget crunch. He estimated that four of the five municipalities in the district will see an increase of less than 1 percent in the local share for education. Presque Isle will not see a tax increase.

Even though Johnson was warned last year that the district likely would lose an estimated $700,000 in state aid for the 2011-12 school year, the foreshadowing didn’t make the loss any easier to bear.

“It is a very difficult situation,” he said Monday. “Especially after the big hit we took last year.”

Budget workshops will be held at 5 p.m. Monday, April 11, and Wednesday, April 13,  in the board conference room at Presque Isle High School.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/03/28/news/sad-1-may-cut-positions-freeze-wages-to-meet-1-million-loss-in-2011-12-funds/ printed on September 20, 2014