SAD 17 addresses priorities for 2019

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IMPACT — The SAD 17 Board of Directors heard a lengthy presentation Monday night about the FY19 education funding and its potential impact on the local school district.

PARIS — The SAD 17 Board of Directors has identified four priority areas members want to discuss in greater detail as they begin to look at the impact of fiscal 2019 during the coming months.

Superintendent Rick Colpitts said the biennial budget approved earlier this year included $162 million in state subsidy for education.  Of that amount a total of $48.4 million was allocated in state subsidy for education for fiscal 2018 and $113.6 million in education funding for fiscal 2019.

The seemingly good news may not be all that, he said.

“How will they divide it up? That’s the question,” Colpitts told the board members at the Monday, Oct. 16 meeting.

At issue is how much of the fiscal 2019 allocation must go to reducing the local share, he said.

In fiscal 2018 the legislation mandated that 50 percent of the allocation be used to reduce local tax contributions unless a local warrant had been approved, which was the case in the eight SAD 17 district towns. Colpitts said there is now an ongoing debate as to whether another 50 percent has to be returned to the local share. The Department of Education believes it does.

Colpitts told board members that in fiscal 2018, SAD 17 received an approximate 1.73 percent increase in state funding. If everything remained the same in fiscal 2019, SAD 17 would see a $1,961,593 increase in state funding.

But, he cautioned, that assumption is a “dreamland.”

Colpitts said changes in the Essential Programs and Services, including staff ratios, decreases in system administration per student costs, a change in the definition of EPS from “equity in achieving” to “the opportunity for all students” to meet the standards, plus other changes signal some possible negative impacts in the funding distribution for SAD 17.

On the other hand, he said, there may be some positive impacts including eliminating a 3 percent shortfall in EPS and up front funding for new pre-kindergarten programs and increased funding for disadvantaged students and special needs students.

Priorities

While board members have expressed a desire to fund a number of long-range projects, programs and positions such as a elementary foreign language program, full-time principals at each elementary school, full-time nursing at each school, a late start for the high school, a new high school roof and much more, there is only so much money to go around.

In order to get a handle on what the board currently feels should be funding priorities, Colpitts asked board members to prioritize those desires.

Based on the priorities identified by each member, the four top choices included: interventionists for grades 3-6, replacing the high school roof and HVAC systems, implementing a single bus run to accommodate a later start for the middle and high school students, and looking at increasing access to psychological and social services for regular education students.

Colpitts said these topics will be examined in greater detailed throughout the year.

In other news, the board:

  • heard from administrators about their plans for the Aspire Higher month, which kicked off Wednesday, Oct. 18, with the Aspire Higher parade in Paris. Some 4,000 members of the SAD 17 community were expected to march down Main Street in support of local education. The month-long celebration brings students in direct contact with representatives of various career paths and also provides dozens of $100 college scholarships that are selected through a drawing.
  • accepted a $1,000 donation from Helping Hands Food Bank to support a food pantry organized by the Oxford Hills School Student Council and advisers.
  • voted to approve nominations for stipend positions in the music program and on subject area committees.
  • approved the superintendent’s nomination of a pre-kindergarten teacher at the Guy E. Rowe School, an Ed Tech III position at the Western Maine Regional Program for Children with Exceptionalities, and an elementary school custodian.
  • approved a grade 5 Harrison Elementary School annual field trip to the Byrant Pond 4-H Camp in November.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net