EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine – As enrollment declines, the layoff of two elementary school teachers and a halftime high school guidance counselor is necessary under a school budget residents will vote on next month, officials said Friday.
The $4.2 million budget for town schools proposed for the 2014-15 fiscal year is about $2,000 under the budget that will lapse on June 30, school superintendent Quenten Clark said.
But the cuts East Millinocket School Committee members made will likely not be enough to offset a $185,000 state subsidy cut and an increase in the costs residents will pay to tuition fifth- to eighth graders to Medway Middle School next year, Clark said.
The subsidy cut and tuition increase will add almost $250,000 to East Millinocket taxpayers’ share of the costs of offering education through the middle school, Schenck High School and K-4 Opal Myrick Elementary School, which is located in a wing of Schenck.
“The ultimate story at any of the schools north of Bangor is enrollment decline,” Clark said Friday. “Enrollment is down and continues to decline. We are graduating a relatively large high school class this year and so far we have only 14 kindergarteners coming in next year. Five years ago the typical number was about 30.”
In November 2011, Opal Myrick, Medway Middle School and Schenck had 430 students. The three schools had 377 students as of October 2013, according to the Maine Department of Education data warehouse. That’s a 13 percent drop.
“There has only been one year since 1995 when we gained population, and that was two or three kids,” Clark added.
The declining school population contributes to an increase per pupil costs just as the town’s decreasing overall population increases the amount of taxes the residents who remain must pay. It also makes some teaching positions unnecessary, school committee Chairman Dan Byron said.
“You don’t need the same amount of staff if you don’t have the same number of kids,” Byron said.
The committee might have been forced to lay off a high school teacher, but a science teacher and math teacher agreed to retire and return to the school next year as half-time employees, Clark said.
“So far I think we have managed to keep the core program together, as crazy as it sounds. Eventually if you keep cutting and cutting you lose something you really need,” Clark said.
The town’s budget committee will meet on Monday to go over the budget in preparation for the town meeting on June 3.