Brewer school budget draft taps fund balance, city

Posted April 03, 2012, at 2:29 p.m.
Last modified April 03, 2012, at 6:27 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — The Brewer School Department is getting a lower state subsidy and fewer high school tuition dollars. To offset those decreases, it is tapping into its carry-forward fund balance and will be asking the city for more money for next year’s school budget.

“This is what we’ve called ‘the cliff’ for a number of years,” Gretchen Gardner, the school department’s business manager, said Tuesday of the state aid decreases. “We’ve been talking about this for years.”

Besides losing an estimated $325,545 in state subsidy and $176,000 in high school tuition funds, the school department also saw $230,000 in federal stimulus funding expire, she said.

“Look at the state appropriation — we’re losing money,” Amanda Bost, school board chairwoman, said after Monday’s meeting. “We’ve cut and cut and cut.”

The draft budget for next year includes funding for one half-time gifted and talented teacher, but no others, and maintains all the programs and services now offered.

“This is a very tight budget,” Superintendent Daniel Lee said. “What we’re recommending is a 2 percent increase in the overall budget.”

The proposed fiscal year 2012-13 school budget — which seeks nearly $20 million, an increase of $392,520 over this year — was presented for its first reading at Monday night’s school board meeting.

“In order to keep the services we’ve been provided at the school, we need to find additional revenue and the school board has decided to ask the city for a larger appropriation,” Gardner said. “We have not done that for a number of years and last year we asked for less money” — about $125,000 less than the previous year.

School officials are asking for $737,000 more from the city for the 2012-13 budget, and are planning to use approximately $1.5 million of their carry-forward funds, Lee said.

“We’ll be using approximately half of our carry-forward reserve,” the superintendent said. “We’ll be keeping half because we’ll need that for next year.”

Considering all the state funding decreases, “I think we’ve prepared pretty well,” Gardner said.

The school board will hold a second reading of the budget at its May meeting, and Lee and Gardner will present it to the City Council in June.

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