Paris school share down, all towns to hear their assesments

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PARIS — Superintendent Rick Colpitts told SAD 17 directors on Monday, April 4 that despite concerns from Paris officials over the school’s proposed $39.1 million budget, that the increase for that town’s assessment for its share of the budget is actually smaller than it has been in the last six years.

Additionally, the town is getting more state subsidy than any of the other seven district towns for this budget that meets, but does not exceed, recommended spending under the state’s Essential Services Program.

The state uses a complex – and some say controversial – formula to determine the amount of money a school district needs from the state to provide students with basic educational needs. The state subsidy is based on a number of factors, including property valuations.

Paris selectmen voiced frustrations at a selectmen’s meeting in March over the proposed budget’s impact on their taxpayers and asked Interim Town Manager Sawin Millett to draft a letter to Colpitts and officials in the other SAD 17 district towns asking them to reject any school budget that exceeds the EPS.

“They (the state) are paying for more than half the bill to educate their students,” Colpitts said of the $5,450,239 state subsidy Paris receives from the state for its share of the school budget.

Colpitts said he has agreed to meet with the Paris Board of Selectmen at its Monday, April 25 meeting to discuss the budget. He will meet with both Paris and Norway officials and the community at a budget hearing to be held at Paris Elementary School the next night – Tuesday, April 26 – beginning at 7 p.m. Other community budget meetings are also scheduled.

The impact of the proposed budget on local taxpayers is based on the state’s valuation of each town, Colpitts told the directors.

While the total budget to budget increase between 2010 and 2017 has only been 8.67 percent, the total increase to local taxpayers during that same time has gone up 28.23 percent.

During that same time, the amount of money the state has kicked in to local community shares has decreased. In the last eight years the local share paid by taxpayers has increased almost $5 million and the state share has dropped by $2 million, Colpitts said.

“The shift in how you’re paying for it [school budget] continues. They are feeling it,” Colpitts said about the taxpayers.

Harrison and Waterford do not get any state support and pay 100 percent of students’ cost. Otisfield is getting close to that point, he said.

But towns like Oxford, Hebron and West Paris will see more than a 5 percent increase in their assessments this year. Oxford will receive $3,449,331; Hebron $1,523,527 and West Paris $2,475,320 in state subsidy to offset that cost.

“If your town is worth more, you pay more,” he explained.

Although the assessments seem high to some towns, overall it is only a 2.12 percent increase in assessments over last year, Colpitts emphasized. The assessment increased from $19,671,435 last year to $20,089,371 with this proposed budget – an increase of $417,936.

The assessments will continue to shift in the coming years.

“As towns get wealthier, we see the shift to towns supporting [education costs] and not the state,” Colpitts said.

Hearings set

Preliminary budget hearings have been set for residents and town officials in the school’s eight district town on the following dates:

Harrison/Waterford: April 11, 7 p.m., Waterford Memorial School

Oxford/Otisfield: April 12, 7 p.m., Oxford Elementary School

Hebron/West Paris: April 14, 7 p.m., Hebron Station School

Norway-Paris April 26, 7 p.m., Paris Elementary School

The SAD 17 Budget Committee will finalize its budget on Wednesday, April 27, during a meeting beginning at 6 p.m. at the Central Office. The final budget will be presented to the School Committee for adoption at its Monday, May 2 meeting in the Central Office beginning at 7 p.m.

The district budget hearing will be held on Thursday, June 9, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School Forum. At that time, voters from all eight district towns will vote on a line by line budget warrant.

The budget validation and bond referendum will take place on Tuesday, June 14, in all eight towns polling places. That vote will be a straight yes or no on the overall budget number.

ldixon@sunmedigroup.net