Proposed $6.77 million SAD 4 budget headed to public hearing

Posted May 11, 2011, at 8:03 p.m.

GUILFORD, Maine — Despite a budget reduction of $153,349 from the current year, SAD 4 towns will pay more in their local assessments to cover school costs in 2011-2012.

SAD 4 directors adopted on Tuesday a proposed budget of $6,774,181, which reflects a 2.21 percent reduction over the current $6,927,530 budget. Director Ann Bridge of Parkman was the only director who opposed the budget.

“Valuation changes very much affect how the local share is distributed out to the six towns,’’ SAD 4 Superintendent Paul Stearns said Tuesday. “Valuation changes and pupil counts are the two key elements.”

As a result of those changes, increases in assessments in the six SAD 4 towns are reflected as follows: Abbot, 7.78 percent; Cambridge, 8.50 percent; Guilford, 0.39 percent; Parkman, 11.74 percent; Sangerville, 4.74 percent; and Wellington, 5.05 percent.

The proposed spending plan reflects a salary freeze for teachers and administrators and includes the elimination of a counseling position, half of a music position, a fourth of a science position, a kindergarten position and an educational technician. It also does not include funds for accreditation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

“Back in February, the administrators and department heads came in with a budget of  $7,125,627, and even at that point, it was a fairly austere budget and yet the committee reduced it by $327,000 plus,’’ Stearns said Tuesday. About 85 percent of school expenses are fixed costs such as utilities, heat and salaries, he noted.

The spending plan is $325,370 under the 100 percent Essential Programs and Services program funding model. One hundred percent is what the state considers adequate under ideal conditions to provide schools with the resources necessary to have students achieve the Maine Learning Results standards, according to Stearns.

In 2012, the district will have $823,509 less in state subsidy than it did in 2009, directors were told. The state’s budget share is just over 51 percent, down from 66 percent in 2009. In addition, the district will lose about $100,000 in Medicaid revenue for the year because of adjustments in program cost reimbursements, Stearns noted.

In the last two weeks, the Department of Education has advised school systems to budget zero for Medicaid for next year, Stearns said.  “We have listened to them for many months say, ‘Don’t worry about it, you’re just doing it wrong, you just need to do your paperwork and the money will come,’ and they have now come to the conclusion that that Medicaid money has dried up.”

About 66 percent of those revenue losses have been absorbed by the district through strategic planning and staffing adjustments, while the remainder has been passed on to taxpayers, Stearns said.

The budget will be further explained at an informational meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 2, which will be followed by the district budget meeting at 7 p.m. at Piscataquis Community Elementary School in Guilford. Because residents last year approved three more years of the voter validation process, residents will go to the polls in their communities on June 14 to validate the June 2 vote.

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