Despite spending cuts, proposed Lincoln school budget increases

Posted May 30, 2013, at 2:24 p.m.
Last modified May 30, 2013, at 2:39 p.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — Shrinking state aid will leave taxpayers in the three-town RSU 67 paying $205,764 more for services next year under the board’s proposed $12.05 million budget, officials said Thursday.

The school district’s board of directors cut spending in the proposed 2013-14 budget to a level about $86,000 less than in this year’s $12.13 million budget. Board Chairwoman Rebecca Hanscom called the budget fair and balanced “given what is coming out of Augusta.”

Hanscom said she could not recall ever seeing so many different state funds for local schools cut or curtailed.

“This has been a very challenging year because it is not just us dealing with the budget,” Hanscom said. “We have to deal with all these shortfalls from the state, but the board is extraordinarily committed to being sensitive to the needs of the public and the [school’s] employees while taking care of business.”

No academic or sports programs will be cut under the new budget, interim Superintendent Ray Freve said.

The school board will vote on the proposal at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Mattanawcook Academy. Board members, Hanscom said, also will set dates for a town budget meeting and a referendum late next month for residents of the district, which serves Chester, Lincoln and Mattawamkeag.

Attrition created by retirements and school board members leaving positions unfilled helped allow next year’s budget to come in under this year’s, Freve said. The budget year ends June 30.

Among the significant cost increases, Freve said, is a 13 percent or $133,000 health insurance cost increase for the system’s 214 employees.

“That killed us,” Freve said.

The state’s budget is not complete, making firm numbers hard to come by, but school officials expect the state will cut its contribution to the school system by $254,154 next year –- or from $6.20 million this year to $5.95 million, Freve said.

The expected cut led to a local taxpayer increase in school funding of about $205,764. State funding formulas compelled the district to raise more money from residents in order to get more funding from the state, Freve said.

Counting adult education costs, Chester will pay $595,212 next year. That’s an increase of $50,855, or 9.34 percent, over this year’s budget. Lincoln will pay $29,349 more next year, raising its allocation from $3.75 million to $3.82 million, or 0.77 percent. Mattawamkeag’s allocation will rise 7.10 percent, or $30,403 — from $428,348 this year to $458,751 next year, the proposal states.

The impact those increases will have on property taxes is unclear, with state and local budgets not yet complete. The school board also can opt to make changes in the budget before voting on it Wednesday, Hanscom said.

Hanscom declined to comment on how much of an impact the $140,000 severance payment due former Superintendent Denise Hamlin on June 30 will have in this or next year’s budgets. Hamlin resigned her position on April 24.

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