BREWER, Maine — School leaders got their first glimpse at the 2009-10 budget Monday night, and heard that residents would be asked to open their pocketbooks a little wider to pay the bill.
“It’s a 1.6 percent increase overall in the budget,” Superintendent Daniel Lee said. “The lion’s share [of the increase] is coming from the city.”
The preliminary fiscal year 2009-10 budget is $17,341,254, an increase of $271,632 over last year, he said. Of that amount, around $170,000 is expected to fall directly on the shoulders of taxpayers, increasing the local subsidy to nearly $5.84 million.
“What you’re seeing is a shifting of costs from a state level to municipal,” Lee said.
The state’s subsidy for Brewer originally was projected to drop by $94,000, but is $4,894 more than last year thanks to federal stimulus funds, he said. The state’s $7.13 million subsidy now includes $266,022 in stimulus funds.
Lee and Business Manager Lester Young went over the draft budget with the school board, explaining 11 major reductions that are expected to save the district more than $633,000 and seven additions — including $143,000 for high school laptops — that will cost the district just over $344,000.
“A lot of these numbers are projected numbers,” Young stressed. “They are not concrete.”
The cost reductions include leaving a vacant high school English teaching position unfilled, eliminating a first-grade teacher and a high school special education teacher, reducing administrative services, and paying for four education technicians with federal funds.
Providing laptop computers for middle and high school students is the biggest addition, but address improvements at the high school, and adding a gifted and talented teacher and a third pre-kindergarten session are planned.
Each school unit in the state gets technology funds, totaling around $279 per student, and Brewer leaders are planning to use those funds to pay for participating in the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, which would provide laptops to all students in grades seven through 12.
“We’re ordering 470 laptops,” Young said. “We took out all the technology funds and put it towards the laptops.”
Because nearly half of the high school’s students are from out of town, Brewer also will ask its sending districts to forward technology funds for those students to Brewer to pay for the program, Lee said.
“The money will follow those students,” he said.
The school board asked several questions about maintaining and insuring the laptops, and if there were any hidden costs. They also asked questions about the student-to-teacher ratios for the grades were teachers were eliminated or positions were not filled.
“We had goals,” Lee said. “One goal was to keep as many people working as we could.”
The first school budget draft will be tightened as more concrete figures are provided by the Department of Education and the state Legislature, Young said.
“Changes in Augusta, changes in the laptop initiative will change this picture a lot,” he said. “I think it’s a good starting point, but we have to wait to see what happens in Augusta.”