PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — SAD 1 officials are proposing eliminating six teaching positions as part of a cost-saving plan to address an estimated loss of $639,639 in state aid and a projected decrease of $221,833 in federal funds for the next school year.
“We’re in a financial crisis again for the third year in a row and it’s directly connected to the loss of revenue coming in from the state,” Superintendent Gehrig Johnson told school board directors during their Feb. 15 meeting. “This $640,000 loss is the fourth-biggest hit — dollarwise — of any of Maine’s 132 school systems. The large loss in state aid is directly tied to Presque Isle and Mapleton’s much higher state average valuation growth, combined with an 86 student loss districtwide.”
As of Oct. 1, there were 1,878 students attending SAD 1 schools.
Having looked closely at the budget, Johnson said it was “evident to us that a tax increase isn’t the answer with the economy being what it is.”
“We set as a goal to work with what we have and to examine our budget to develop a plan that is educationally sound and also makes financial sense,” he said. “In order to keep the tax commitment the same as this year, we have to cut our budget by approximately $936,000.
“We will be presenting a budget with significant reductions in it … touching every department and every budget category throughout the system. We know that our budget is 80 percent personnel, and unfortunately with a reduction of this size, it has to affect people,” said Johnson.
In 2010-11 — facing a similar budget crisis — $540,000 in personnel cuts representing 28 positions were made, but with careful planning, retirement incentives and normal personnel turnover, no one lost a job. In 2011-12, seven more positions were eliminated.
Johnson said at last week’s meeting that the proposed 2012-13 budget will reflect a loss of six teaching jobs.
Eliminated positions include one first-grade teacher at Pine Street Elementary School, two second-grade teachers at Pine, one fourth-grade position at Zippel, one fourth-grade teacher at Mapleton Elementary School and the family consumer science position at Presque Isle High School.
“Decreased enrollment will allow for these reductions,” said Johnson, “but we will still be within guidelines that have been established by the board.”
In addition, two special education ed techs will be eliminated, and three bus driver and custodian positions that have yet to be filled will remain vacant.
Further, seven co-curricular and extracurricular stipend positions at Presque Isle Middle School and PIHS will be eliminated, and the adult education and vocational education directorship and school farm manager positions will be restructured in a manner that will result in an approximately $63,000 savings in administrative costs.
“On the personnel side, we’re looking at a total savings of $540,257,” Johnson said.
Other savings include contracted maintenance services and supplies, and contingencies for supplies, fuel oil and electricity.
The proposed 2012-13 budget that will be presented to directors in the coming weeks will reflect no tax increase districtwide, but some communities may see a slight increase or decrease depending on their valuation increases.
“The proposed budget will reflect the same budget figure that we worked with this year — $22,960,050 — and the same tax commitment figures that we used this year, as well,” Johnson said.
Though not at all pleased with the large losses in state aid, Johnson feels the budget proposal is workable.
“The last few years we’ve tried very hard to stay away from any reductions at the elementary level, while reductions were made at other levels,” he said, “but with elementary enrollment continuing to decline, positions there will now also be affected.”
Budget workshops will be held in April, and the budget referendum is expected to go to voters in May.