PARIS — The SAD 17 Board of Directors approved a proposed Fiscal 2019 budget at its May 7 meeting that is nearly $229,000 less than the budget presented to the board last month.
“We actually made some headway,” School Superintendent Rick Colpitts told the directors of further efforts made to reduce the budget and to include several more positions the directors and educators felt were necessary to have.
In a unanimous vote, the Directors approved the proposed $39.9 million Fiscal 2019 budget that shows a further decrease – 0.57 percent, or $228,929 – from last month’s proposed budget and a decrease in assessments to the district’s eight towns.
Last month Colpitts unveiled his proposed $40,046, 613 Fiscal 2019 budget at April 2 Board of Directors meeting that showed a .39 percent or $157,166 decrease over the Fiscal 2018 budget.
Colpitts said he and Business Manager Cathy Coffey were able to put more up to date “carry over” numbers into budget that gave them an expanded money to work with.
A total of $1,191,750 in new and expanded positions are in the final budget including $175,000 for 2.5 social workers. The positions were on the wish list of the school board. Last month they asked that the superintendent return to the drawing table to see if there was a way to include them in the proposed school budget.
The social workers will be used at the Harrison, Waterford, Hebron and Agnes Gray elementary schools. Guidance services will continue to be available to the larger elementary schools at Oxford, Norway and Paris, which have much larger student populations.
This budget reflects that a total 70 percent of the money is being used for classroom instruction, said Colpitts.
The approved proposed budget also provided a downward shift in assessments for the districts eight towns.
The 2.98 percent average assessment, budget to budget, includes the district’s EPS (Essential Programs and Services) share, bonds, adult education services. The assessments are based on the mill rate for each town that is set by the state.
Last month town officials were told the proposed total assessment for Fiscal 2019 showed increases for all eight district towns ranging from a low of 1.54 for Waterford to a high of 6.70 for Otisfield.Under that proposal, Oxford would see a 5.37 percent increase or $207.233.72; Paris a 3.92 percent increase $120,213.65 and Norway a $148,422 or 3.84 percent increase.
Under the latest proposal, Oxford, for example, will see a 4.04 percent or $156,072 assessment; Paris, a 2.45 percent or $75,284.56; and Norway, a 2.49 percent increase or $96,503.97.
Overall the district pays $6,210 per student for their education. A total of 87 percent of the school systems in Maine spend more per student than SAD 17. According to Fiscal 2017 state figures, SAD 17 ranked 216 out of 248 school systems in cost per students.
While the budget process continues, Director Donald Ware questioned what would happen because of the Legislature’s decision to adjourn without acting on a major school funding bill.
Colpitts said it is his understanding schools will get some state funding under an “emergency” designation on July 1, which is the start of the new fiscal year, if nothing is in place by that time.
The Maine School Management Association, which represents superintendents, recently urged its members to contact lawmakers about the situation.
Colpitts said that as of Monday night he only had one response, from Sen. Jim Hamper, who simply agreed something had to be done.
“Ultimately the legislators need to take action,” said Colpitts .
The next step for voters in the eight district towns is to meet at the annual District budget hearing/meeting on June 7 at 7 p.m. in the Forum at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School to approve the line item budget.
Then voters will validate the budget during the referendum vote at each of the town’s voting polls on June 12.