May 25, 2018
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Superintendent expects more layoffs at Howland-area schools

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

LAGRANGE, Maine — Superintendent of Schools Michael Wright hopes savings and combinations of services will offset the possibility of layoffs within the Howland-area School Administrative Unit 31 by July 1, but he is not optimistic, he said Monday.

AOS 43, the combination of SAU 31 and the Milo-area SAU 41, benefited from an additional $759,000 in state funding this year — $596,000 to SAU 41 and $163,000 to SAU 31 — but Wright fears that won’t be enough to offset layoffs in the Howland schools by the start of the 2012-13 fiscal year.

“What I am trying to do in 31 is resize the district,” Wright said Monday. “We are looking at all classes and both districts to see where we can do things more efficiently.”

“In 31 there is likely to be some changes as a result of looking at student-teacher ratios,” Wright added. “There will likely be some layoffs.”

It’s too early yet to know how many layoffs might occur or how severe the funding shortfall that will cause them will be, said Wright, who expects to have budgets for both school districts prepared for voters sometime in June.

“In a relatively short period of time, at least a week to two weeks, we will know all those answers,” he said.

Seventeen school workers were laid off from SAU 31 in November.

No layoffs are expected in SAU 41, which serves Atkinson, Brownville, LaGrange and Milo.

A $1.1 million, five-year loan that residents of the SAU 31 towns of Burlington, Edinburg, Enfield, Howland, Maxfield and Passadumkeag voted 606-127 to accept in late January from the Maine Municipal Bond Bank saved SAU 31 from bankruptcy. But the loan might not be enough to offset about $257,000 in budget underfunding and another $331,000 in anticipated revenues that were not realized in the 2011-12 budget, Wright said.

SAU 31 sought the loan to save the school unit from a financial crisis caused by leaders’ mismanagement and a lack of oversight that Wright discovered soon after his SAU 41 joined SAU 31 last summer as part of the new AOS. That loan should allow SAU 31 to pay off all of its debts by the end of the school year, Wright said.

“It is going as we thought it might. We are keeping our fingers crossed that we will end our year with all our bills paid,” Wright said.

The $163,000 increase SAU 31 expects in state funding, coupled with about $100,000 Wright expects to save by having SAU 41 special education director Stacy Shorey fill SAU 31’s vacant curriculum coordinator’s post, likely will save some cut positions, Wright said. He appointed Shorey to the newly combined job two weeks ago.

The school boards of 31 and 41 and the administrative staff located at the AOS 43 office in LaGrange have been reviewing portions of the school systems’ budgets over the last few weeks. The SAU 41 board was due to review that school system’s maintenance and transportation budgets at 6 p.m. Monday at Penquis Valley High School in Milo.

SAU 31 will hold a budget workshop at 6 p.m. Thursday at Penobscot Valley High School in Howland, Wright said.

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