Proposed Rockland-area school budget would cut 14 jobs, hike taxes

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff
Posted April 01, 2013, at 8:39 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The area school district will see 14 positions eliminated or reduced, and even with those reductions will be asking district property taxpayers for an additional $1 million.

That was the sobering news announced Monday evening when Superintendent Lew Collins released the administration’s proposed 2013-2014 budget of $27.5 million to the board. This represents a 4 percent ($1,047,000) increase in spending.

The budget does not include any savings from a proposed merger of the district’s two middle schools. Collins pointed out that the board will vote on his merger recommendation at its regular monthly meeting on Thursday evening and if that is approved, there will be estimated savings of $500,000 from reduced staff and reduced operating expenses.

The greatest number of staff cuts would come from Oceanside High School East in Rockland. The proposed budget calls for the elimination of a classroom art teaching position, a social studies teacher and a resource room teacher, and the reduction of a technology teacher to half-time for Oceanside High School East. A social studies teaching position at Oceanside West in Thomaston is also proposed for elimination, as well as an interventionist teacher being reduced to half-time at Oceanside West.

Three elementary classroom teachers would also be cut — two at the South School in Rockland and one at the St. George School.

Collins said some of the reductions are due to decreasing student enrollment.

“We’ve already cut to the bone, now we’re into the bone,” said board Vice Chairman Loren Andrews.

The budget also calls for the addition of several positions. The new positions include a behavioral clinic coordinator for special education, a half-time development director to write grant applications for the district, a half-time Web master and a half-time laptop initiative coordinator.

The superintendent said the development director position could generate added revenues.

“We would be less at the mercy of the state,” he said, referring to state aid.

Collins said the budget expenditures are increasing because of fixed costs such as negotiated staff pay raises, increased health insurance costs and increased fuel costs.

Even with the cuts in staff, the district will need to assess the RSU 13 communities an additional $1 million, which will come from property owners. He said the division of that $1 million by individual communities was not yet known. Rockland, however, is likely to bear a larger share of the increase because of the district’s cost sharing formula adopted when RSU 13 was created in July 2009.

“Putting a budget together is an incredibly delicate balancing act between the needs of students and the needs of taxpayers,” Collins said.

The budget includes $113,553 in school safety improvements such as a new public address system and a swipe card system for exterior doors at Oceanside East. These recommendations came out of meetings between the school and public safety officials following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December.

Board member George Emery of St. George questioned whether that was a wise use of money.

“I have a hard time voting for these security things,” Emery said.

The superintendent said he will also ask the board to put a bond referendum out to district voters to borrow up to $450,000 for expanding the cafeteria at Oceanside East. He said the cafeteria was simply too small for the number of students.

The board will be meeting on the budget during the next month.

The districtwide budget meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 28, and whatever is adopted will be put before district voters in a referendum on Tuesday, June 11.

No one from the public spoke at Monday evening’s meeting.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/04/01/news/midcoast/proposed-rockland-area-school-budget-would-cut-14-jobs-hike-taxes/ printed on April 23, 2014