Madawaska school committee OKs $6.7 million budget, reduces local tax commitment

By Julia Bayly, BDN Staff
Posted Dec. 20, 2012, at 8:51 p.m.

MADAWASKA, Maine — Nearly halfway through its 2012-2013 fiscal year, Madawaska School Committee approved a $6.7 million budget during an emergency meeting Thursday night.

Voters will act on the budget during a special town meeting Jan. 7

The approved budget represents a $513,000 decrease from last year, including reduction in local tax effort of $251,601.

The approved budget also provides enough funds to keep 10 teaching positions eliminated last week through the end of the current school year.

In November, voters turned down the proposed school budget after the committee failed to make $250,000 reduction in the local tax effort and increased the budget by $275,000 over the previous year.

Residents mandated that the school committee reduce the proposed budget by $525,000 before presenting it to voters again. Town voters approved a municipal budget that reflected $250,000 in cuts from the previous year.

“This [proposed] budget meets our goal,” Terry Wood, school superintendent, told her committee Thursday night.

Helping them get to this point is the revised Maine Department of Education computation allocations to fund public schools, the so-called ED279 formula, based the decreased 2011 state valuation of the town of Madawaska that will provide an additional $199,000 in state contribution.

The town is facing heavy tax revenue losses stemming from property tax abatements granted to Twin Rivers Paper Co., reducing its valuation from $170 million to $85 million during a four-year period beginning in fiscal year 2010.

“I was informed of these revised figures last Friday,” Wood said, adding the revisions were made by the department of education in November.

For the past month, school committee members have met with members of the teachers’ negotiating team in an effort to reach a compromise on cuts to teacher salaries as a way to make up at least part of the shortfall.

In an effort to meet those cuts, the committee last week proposed eliminating the equivalent of 12 full-time teaching and staff positions, representing more than 20 percent of the 43-member faculty.

Thanks to that extra $199,000 from the state, those teacher will be employed until the end of the current school year.

“I feel for these teachers,” Wood said. “When you are telling people they no longer have a job, it does not feel good.”

Wood said some of those teachers may be employed next year depending on subject matter need, something she will know when Madawaska students prepare their 2013-2014 schedules in April.

The final town meeting warrant for the school budget must be approved by the municipal budget meeting before it can be posted. That committee is expected to act on the warrant by next week.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/12/20/news/aroostook/madawaska-school-committee-oks-6-7-million-budget-reduces-local-tax-commitment/ printed on July 30, 2014