SAD 17 to get $1M in state funds

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PARIS — The Oxford Hills School District is set to receive more than $1 million in additional state funding, but there are consequences that come along with that check, Superintendent Rick Colpitts told the Board of Directors at its Monday, July 17 meeting.

“That’s great news but there’s still a lot of confusion about it,” Colpitts said of the $1,049,027 that the SAD 17 school district is slated to receive in additional state funding under the two-year state budget signed by Gov. Paul LePage earlier this month.

The budget provides an additional $48.4 million to public school systems in 2018 and another $113.6 million in 2019, but stipulates that 50 percent of that subsidy must be used to lower the school administrative unit’s local contribution to the total cost of school funding. The state has urged school districts to “exercise patience” as they work through the details of the adjusted budget and what it means to local school districts.

In the case of SAD 17, voters approved a $39.6 million 2017-18 fiscal year spending plan at its June 8 annual budget meeting that reflected a 4.19 percent increase in local assessments. At that time, voters also approved a separate article that allowed the school district to exceed the Essential Programs and Services funding by $1.09 million and to use any additional state subsidy to pay for educational programs, facility needs, reduce local taxes and other measures.

The vote allows the school board to determine how much of the additional funding would be applied and where it would be used under the broad guidelines.

Colpitts said he believes a waiver in the legislation for districts such as SAD 17 that passed an article allowing a school district to exceed EPS funding, may be applicable, but this is one of the issues the state must work out.

According to information in a memo from Colpitts to the directors, the adjustment in the state subsidy reduced the SAD 17 local share from 8.29 to 8.19 percent and because of that some towns in the SAD 17 district will be impacted differently. At least one town could see an increase of more than $6,000 in its local share, he said.

Since two towns in the district pay based on a per pupil rate, a reduction in the mil rate does not result in reduced assessments.

“It is unclear if we would use the new mill rate to determine the amount of each town’s distribution or the mill rate our existing budget was based on at the time of the referendum,” he said in the memo, issued July 17.

Additionally, Colpitts said the extra state funding and its impact on conflicting district needs will have to be addressed.

“The district has many pressing needs that were eliminated in the budget that was passed that should be revisited,” he said. The needs include replacing the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School roof, placing additional funds in the Capital Reserve Fund that was established in 2017 and meeting requests to return some of the money to local taxpayers.

Colpitts has recommended that the Budget Committee be reconvened in mid-August to review the impact of the additional state subsidy and to re-examine items cut from the existing budget and review the cost-sharing data. The Budget Committee will then make a recommendation to the full board in late August or early September on how to proceed with the additional funds.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net