BRUNSWICK, Maine — A proposed $36.2 million school budget for the next fiscal year, which already includes $700,000 in recommended reductions in technology and other expenditures, could increase property taxes by 4.4 percent.
But school board members at Wednesday’s budget workshop said they hope to mitigate the tax effect by seeking more reductions, knowing that an expensive spending package for a new school will likely go to ballot next year.
“The 4 percent increase is a little high if we’re going to continue to make the new school a priority,” board Vice Chairman William Thompson said.
The board is required to vote on a school budget for the 2015 fiscal year on April 30. A townwide referendum on the school budget will be held June 10, after the Town Council signs off on it in late May.
The budget, a 4 percent increase from last year, is proposed to be funded by a nearly $23.9 million appropriation from the town and just over $10 million in state aid. The remaining revenue will come from projected surpluses, tuition paid by students coming from other districts and other sources.
The proposed $36.2 million school budget and its projected tax effect were revealed for the first time Wednesday night, when Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski detailed proposed personnel and benefits costs, personnel requests and the $700,000 in proposed reductions.
Perzanoski also revealed that the school department estimates it will have to pay more than $450,000 for students who plan to attend charter schools.
Costs for benefits, which include health insurance, workers’ compensation and retirement, among others, increased by a little over 1 percent, to $6.7 million.
Personnel costs, which include teachers, administrators, education technicians and others, would decrease by 0.26 percent, to $19.5 million.
Perzanoski largely attributed that decline to a more than $152,000 reduction from retirement of 15 teachers, who will be replaced by new employees who are typically paid less. Expenditures for education technicians also would decline by about $53,000.
The largest increase in personnel expenditures comes from a 5.8 percent increase for building administrators, which includes all principals and the athletic director, to nearly $7.8 million. The second largest increase comes from a 4.16 percent increase for system administrators, to over $7.5 million.
Perzanoski said the increases are contractual.
The $700,000 reduction in the budget is proposed to come from reductions in spending for technology, one staff position and four stipend positions that will remain unfilled, and funds that were freed up in miscellaneous places.
After hearing concerns from parents about healthy student-teacher ratios in classrooms, some School Board members said they would like to see more reductions on the nonpersonnel side of the budget, to avoid having a larger effect on taxpayers in addition to that expected from constructing a new school.
The school, currently estimated to cost about $24 million, would replace Coffin Elementary School as a K-2 school. It would be built on the site of the former Jordan Acres Elementary School if a spending package is approved in a referendum expected in June 2015.
There was also discussion of scheduling changes in K-5 classes that would require 2½ hours of uninterrupted class time, in response to increasing state and federal mandates.
The proposed scheduling changes created concerns for Arts Are Elementary, a local nonprofit that funds and provides artist residencies for K-5 classes.
Kristi Hatrick, director of the organization, said requiring that much uninterrupted class time could prohibit future opportunities for artist residencies because of scheduling restraints. She said losing that extra time for scheduling could take away valuable extra-curricular education.
“We know how we can tie in,” Hatrick said, “and we also know how we can bring an unusual and different twist on what these kids are already learning.”