Preliminary school budget has local share hike of 3.8 percent
A preliminary FY’14 school budget of $10,371,310 - up from $9,989,269 - would mean a 3.8 percent increase in the overall local tax share compared to last year, SAD 44 officials said Monday.
The increase, if approved by the board and voters, would be “within the ballpark of what the towns are expecting,” Supt. Dave Murphy told the School Board Monday in a presentation.
Murphy said he met with area town managers early this year and will again.
SAD 44 expects to get $704,000 in state aid for next year.
“That’s over $2 million less than what we were getting in 2008-2009,” Murphy said. The state paid 24.1 percent of the budget for ‘08-’09, while the projection for next year is 6.8 percent, he said.
The Finance Committee had started its work this year with a budget figure of $10.5 million, and pared it down by eliminating preliminary increases of $100,000 to capital improvement; $25,000 to instructional contingency; $16,190 for an athletic trainer position; the reinstatement of the business manager position to full time and miscellaneous other reductions.
Included in the lower budget figure are $125,000 in Maine State Retirement costs, currently slated to be passed on to the district by the state; salary and benefit increases; an elementary technology educational technician position previously covered through federal funds; increases in legal expenses and bus lease costs; professional services increase for K-12 summer work and miscellaneous other items.
Murphy said that if the Maine Legislature votes down the shift in retirement costs to districts, SAD 44 would save that amount of money - but would then likely lose another $119,000 in state aid.
Several directors said they saw a need for more help in the district’s Central Office, where Murphy has been relying on part-time services for business management work.
Chairman Lainey Cross said she would favor adding the position to the budget without cutting anything else.
Murphy said the Finance Committee had discussed gradually increasing funds for business management help.
“My only concern this year is I think some of the increases we’re looking at to the towns are right up around what they’re looking at as a maximum figure.” He recommended “working through” the coming year with the possibility of expanding to a larger business management role in the future.
The Finance Committee hopes to have a final proposal figure for directors to vote on at their May 6 meeting.
The board also voted to accept a total of $140,000 in additional funds from Andover to keep the Andover Elementary School open next year (see related story, Page 1).
Bethel director Lynn Arizzi abstained. She told the board she had considered voting against the question, and wanted to explain why.
“I have a really deep feeling that the students in Andover could be better educated in our other elementary schools, and that has been my thought for a long time,” she said, citing a need to “broaden their horizons.”
She said she hoped Andover, in considering the question of whether to withdraw from SAD 44, “will consider all of the wonderful things you will be missing if you withdraw from our district.”
As examples she mentioned a recently-approved program to purchase iPads for kindergarten students and a plan to send some Telstar seniors to Central Maine Community College for both high school and college credit.
In approving the acceptance of the funds, directors also agreed to a request from Andover selectmen to allow the town to defer payment of the $72,000 portion of the total until Oct. 1 if needed, to prevent cash flow problems.
Laptops for public?
SAD 44 directors voted to once again sell laptop computers to the community, and in the process, they hope, finance buying used computers for the district’s students.
The Maine Laptop Initiative buys computers for use by seventh- and eighth-graders statewide. The state pays for them over four years. After that time they become available for purchase to the districts using them.
Four years ago SAD 44 bought the computers it was using, as well as an additional 200 that other districts had not purchased and had turned back in to the state.
SAD 44 then sold those used computers to the community, at rates only slightly above cost. “They sold out very quickly,” Murphy said.
Murphy said that this year, SAD 44 has 478 laptops in the district that it can buy for $47 each.
If the district buys those (and a few dozen more for backup), as well as approximately 500 others through the state to sell locally at $100 each, “then you could pay off what you had to spend on all your computers and have $3,000 left,” he said.
The used computers are MacBooks. The board approved the purchase of up to 1,000 computers total, if they are available from the state.