PARIS — New general purpose aid figures for local schools released Tuesday, March 15, show a slight reduction in local taxes necessary for SAD 17 district towns to pay for education in 2016-17.
The new figures reduced the district’s mil rate from $8.44 to $8.03, SAD 17 Business Manager Cathy Coffey said.It was unclear at the time of the Advertiser Democrat’s deadline what the impact will be on the local school district’s preliminary $39.17 million budget or the budgets of its eight-member towns.
The new figures are the result of the Legislature recently passing, and Gov. Paul LePage signing, an additional appropriation of $15 million to General Purpose Aid for Local Schools for fiscal 2017.
The revised preliminary state subsidy figures are based on the currently enacted biennial budget and are expected to be adjusted again as the Legislature responds to current and projected budget shortfalls, including the $9.5 million General Purpose Aid reduction already proposed by the state’s Office of Policy and Management.
SAD 17 directors were told at their March 7 meeting that preliminary budget figures indicate a 3.46 percent increase in local taxes may be necessary to pay for education for 2016-17.
That figure was based on the Legislature appropriating an additional $15 million in state subsidy for the 2016-17 school year through the enactment of LD 1641, supplementing the $986 million previously appropriated last July.
Coffey said at the March 7 meeting that if the expenditure budget was final at this point, and the carryover amount and state subsidy amount stayed the same, local assessments would have to be increased by $681,423 in order to fund the budget.
The amount is is $804,597 more than what the state Essential Programs and Services formula indicates is the minimum amount the district should spend next year.
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.
While budget numbers are preliminary, Coffey said last week that school officials are “almost certain” they will have to exceed EPS this year but they do not know by how much.
School officials say they have already heard there is some push back from town officials over the preliminary budget of $39.17 million and the need to spend over the EPS limit. Voters approved $38.2 million for 2015-16.
In Paris, selectmen voiced frustrations at their meeting Monday night saying they will not support a school budget that exceeds EPS. The board asked Interim Town Manager Sawin Millett to draft a letter to Superintendent Rick Colpitts and officials in the other SAD 17 district towns asking them to reject any school budget that exceeds the EPS.
Paris Selectman Victor Hodgkins said when the board is trying to cut as much as $500,000, including a full-time police officer, from the $4.2 million municipal budget, that action would be impeded by the school’s request for over fund EPS.
“I think we’re being good stewards and minding our p’s and q’s. I think it’s time the school district even more try to revive their numbers. … You can’t chop $500,000 and not have an impact to services somehow,” Hodgkins said.
Town Budget Hearings
This week school officials released a calendar of dates they will meet with town officials and residents to review the proposed school budget.
Last year, school officials were unable to meet individually with towns as they had in previous years because of state figures were late coming in.
Preliminary budget hearings for residents begin at 7 p.m. at the following meeting places:
April 11: Harrison/Waterford – Waterford Memorial School
April 12: Oxford/Otisfield – Oxford Elementary School
April 14: Hebron/West Paris – Hebron Station School
April 26: Norway/Paris – Paris Elementary School
April 27: Budget Committee finalizes the budget at a 6 p.m. meeting.
DOE officials say they expect to release updated state subsidy numbers following the Legislature’s adjournment in April.
The final budget will be presented to SAD 17 Board of Directors for adoption on Monday, May 2, at 7 p.m.
The district budget hearing for residents in all eight towns will be held on Thursday, June 9 at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School Forum beginning at 7 p.m.
The budget validation referendum will be on Tuesday, June 14, at each of the district town’s polling places. The budget enacted by voters at the budget hearing must be approved again at the individual town polling places on the 14th.