HAMPDEN, Maine — Voters from the SAD 22 member towns of Hampden, Newburgh, Winterport and Frankfort will consider a $28.2 million spending plan for local education during the annual district budget meeting Thursday night in the Hampden Academy gym.
During the meeting, which begins at 7 p.m., voters will have an opportunity to debate and decide 19 warrant articles related to education operations in the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.
The district meeting is the budget’s last stop before it moves on to the budget validation referendum on Tuesday, June 11.
The polls will be open on Election Day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the following locations: Hampden Municipal Building, Newburgh Elementary School, Samuel L. Wagner Middle School in Winterport and Frankfort Elementary School.
The proposed $28,192,808 gross budget — which was approved by the school committee on May 15 — reflects a roughly $492,000, or 1.78 percent, increase from this year’s budget, Superintendent Rick Lyons said Wednesday.
Lyons said that when they began work on the 2013-14 budget late last fall, school officials expected they would be dealing with several variables — including whether the town of Frankfort would be added to the district, which ultimately did occur — as well as the assumption that SAD 22 would receive flat funding or worse, a decrease.
Also taken into consideration were similar budget pressures facing the district’s municipalities, he said.
Factors contributing to the budget increase include:
• Shrinking state dollars, including a $109,000 curtailment in state subsidy that had to be absorbed during this budget year.
• A mandated $340,000 contribution to the state retirement program for teachers, an expense being shifted from the state to local schools as part of Gov. Paul LePage’s budget proposal.
• An 11 percent hike in employee health insurance premiums, for an increase of $300,000.
• Pay increases and other contractual obligations expected to result from negotiations now underway.
To offset the increases, school officials came up with $1.2 million in budget cuts, including the elimination of the equivalent of 11 full-time staff positions and reduced hours for educational technicians and some other professionals, Lyons said.
Not all of the staff reductions will result in layoffs, however. Lyons said Wednesday that the equivalent of four full-time positions will be vacated through attrition.
In budget information mailed to district residents, Lyons said that the cutbacks at Reeds Brooks and Wagner will result in a one-year suspension of the middle school foreign language program. He said the two schools will form a plan for establishing foreign language cludes for middle schools, as well as other opportunities to provide foreign language enrichment.