SCARBOROUGH, Maine — Superintendent of Schools George Entwistle III’s budget proposal calls for an 8.5 percent increase in spending and nearly $1 million in new investments and program restorations, including two full-time teaching positions.
Entwistle presented his $37.5 million fiscal 2015 budget proposal to the school board on March 20. It represents a $2.9 million increase from this year’s spending.
The board unanimously approved the first reading of the budget, recognizing that work on the proposal, specifically in vetting the programs they hope to restore, will continue in the finance committee.
According to Entwistle, major factors that continue in the proposed budget are rebuilding programs from heavy layoffs four years ago, and advancing the department’s 18-month improvement plans.
The 18-month plans, which began in 2011, are based on academic focus areas that community members identified as “critical target areas” of improvement, he said. The plans affect about 2 percent of where the budget proposal invests in academics, which comes out to about $1 million. According to Entwistle, the first plan achieved most of its objectives.
Among other items in the plan, this proposal suggests continuing investments in science, technology and math programs; English and language arts programs in kindergarten through grade 2, and the addition of a language teacher at the middle school. It also adds one full-time guidance counselor at the high school, one full-time technology educator at Wentworth Intermediate School, and part-time additions in art, music and physical education.
“I think it’s a misconception in the community that we’re moving in all directions, when in reality this is very deliberate, incrementally moving toward very specific targeted areas,” Entwistle said.
Other significant costs in the budget include an estimated increase in health care and benefits for staff, which at the most would be just less than $500,000, and a 7 percent increase in debt repayment. Salaries and benefits for staff and debt together comprise 84 percent of the budget proposal.
The state and federal contribution to the budget proposal is estimated at around $4.9 million, a 14 percent increase from this year, although over the past six years there has been a collective revenue decrease from the state of more than 30 percent, Entwistle said.
The budget will go to the town council for a first reading April 2. It will go through a workshop on April 5, then to the town council finance committee April 15, and finally to a public hearing on April 16. Final votes from the school board and the town council will be in early May, and residents will vote in a referendum on May 13.
Last year, the town had to hold three school budget referendums before one passed, following problems with shoreline property tax increases.
Entwistle did not make predictions for this year, but said he hopes this year’s process will be “a rain shower” in comparison to last year’s “perfect storm.”
“There’s a lot of things still in motion,” the school chief said.