SAD 41 residents OK $8M budget; referendum to be held today

Posted June 28, 2012, at 3:36 p.m.

MILO, Maine — Residents of SAD 41 gave their approval to a 2012-13 school budget totaling $8,009,473 during the district meeting on June 19 at Penquis Valley High School. A referendum on the budget is being held today in the four-town district.

The figure represents an increase of over $338,000 from the $7.67 million figure approved for the current academic year.

“The [Essential Programs and Services] subsidy we receive from the state is up $558,000,” Superintendent Michael Wright said, with SAD 41 scheduled to get just over $4.6 million in EPS funds for 2013. He explained the increase resulted from a change in law that no longer bases the amount on the cost of living in school district communities.

Wright said the money SAD 41 must raise on its own in order to receive the state EPS funds is also up from the year before. The $1.976 million figure — made up of both funds required to be raised by the state and nearly $330,000 in local additional funds, which are down by $7,667 from 2011-12 — represents an increase of slightly less than $70,000 from 2012.

The $8,009,473 in expenditures were broken down into a dozen categories and Wright explained the reasons behind the increase and decreases for each line item.

“A good part of that is the proposed increase to teacher and ed tech salaries, a 2.5 percent raise which was approved by the school board,” he said of the the more than $96,000 increase for regular instruction from the current year. Wright said higher insurance costs also is a factor for the item.

The largest increase of any of the dozen expenditures is approximately $186,000 more for special education compared to the year before.

The student and staff support item was up by nearly $123,000.

“A large part of that is we are purchasing a new phone system. However, 83 percent of that will be reimbursed through our e-rate system,” Wright said, adding the phone system will service all of the district schools.

Costs for system administration have gone down by nearly $51,000.

“That has to do with the AOS. There was a $49,000 decrease to each district,” Wright said of the partnership between SAD 41 and 31. The AOS 43 structure has combined the central office and business services of the two school districts, with one superintendent and business manager for the AOS.

The plan calls for $75,000 in savings over the first three years of implementation. Wright wrote in the meeting’s information packet that an AOS budget was presented this year that is $98,000 less than the year before, far surpassing the efficiencies called for in the plan.

Transportation costs are down by just over $50,000 in the proposed budget. “We are looking to join the new state bus refurbishing program, as opposed to paying $85,000 for a new bus,” Wright said.

“Our goal was to use less of the undesignated fund balance but we ended up needing to use almost all of it,” Wright said. He said SAD 41 is asking that $768,000 be appropriated from the account.

After the information session of last week’s meeting, all 13 warrant items were approved to send the budget out to a referendum vote on Thursday, June 28. This includes the $329,336 in additional local funds which legally had to be voted on by written ballot.

The $1,975,765 local assessments for the four SAD 41 communities is divided into about $918,000 for Milo, $532,000 for Brownville, $327,000 for LaGrange and nearly $198,000 for Atkinson. Each town’s share is up from the current year: $34,800 for Milo, nearly $15,700 more for Brownville, $13,615 for LaGrange and almost $5,600 for Atkinson. The town shares are based on student population and valuation.

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