BREWER, Maine — School officials have learned that the state-set nonresident tuition rate has decreased by nearly $200, dropping the rate for fiscal year 2011-12 to $7,805, which is nearly $1,028 less than what Bangor is getting.
Since 317 of the 700 or so students at Brewer High School come from outlying communities, the drop in tuition revenues is hard to swallow, School Department business manager Gretchen Gardner told the Brewer School Committee on Monday.
“This latest news is another setback of $170,925 this year,” she said.
The hit is especially hard because it accompanies a projected state subsidy decrease of $213,000 in general purpose aid, which is still a fluid number, Superintendent Daniel Lee said.
“The state is working hard to fill a budget deficit” and is chopping away at the Department of Health and Human Services budget, he said. If more cuts are needed, “the next pile of money is education. I’m not confident we will not see a curtailment this year.”
The only thing schools can do is wait and see what happens in Augusta, the superintendent said.
“We’ll monitor it and monitor it closely, but frankly we’re all concerned,” Lee said.
The state Department of Education sets the dollar amounts school districts can charge for nonresidents to attend their high schools based on spending the prior year.
The tuition rate is a guessing game every year for Brewer school officials, who must estimate how many students from outside of town will attend the high school and also calculate how many students will go to the United Technologies Center.
Brewer budgeted last year for 326 tuition students at last year’s tuition rate of $8,005 per student, Gardner said, but the actual number of out-of-town students turned out to be 317 at the newly decreased tuition rate of $7,805 each.
The projected figures for this year also listed 30 vocational students, which the state reimbursed at $5,334 per student. The number of tuition students who are actually taking voc classes this year increased to 45, and Brewer is only getting $5,203 for each, she said.
Bangor’s rate, on the other hand, has increased fairly steadily for the last five years, according to data on the Department of Education’s website.
This year, Bangor is getting $293 more per student as the state increased its tuition rate from $8,540 to $8,833.
The state average grew slightly from last year’s $8,798 to $8,832 for 2011-12, an increase of $34.
Gardner and Lee have been vocal over the last couple years in warning the public about projected decreases in state revenue, in what they called “the cliff.” With known revenue decreasing on the horizon, they cut all nonessential spending and asked school leaders to tighten belts wherever possible.
“This is a recurring theme,” Lee said.
There is a special workshop meeting planned for 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23, for the school board to review the state’s tuition calculation.