School budget ready for voters

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SUCCESS - The latest edition of the Oxford Hills School District budget newspaper features pictures taken by Brewster Burns from a series called, "I used to sit at your desk." This year's cover features two 2017 OHCHS graduates, Haley Wakefield and Zane Dustin who wrote inspirational messages on blackboards intended to inspire the younger students from their old elementary schools to continue to work hard. The budget newspapers, which provide the budget warrant and year-end reports from school principals and other administrators, will be available at the budget hearing on June 7.  

PARIS — Voters from the SAD 17 eight district towns will be asked to approve a $39.9 million warrant when the annual budget meeting/hearing gets underway Thursday, June 7 at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the OHCHS Forum.

The SAD Board of Directors approved the proposed Fiscal 2019 budget unanimously at its May 7 meeting. The budget is a 0.57 percent, or $228,929 decrease over the Fiscal 2018 budget. It includes the proposed $3,653,444 budget to support the Career and Technical Region budget.

The budget meeting is an opportunity for voters in all eight district towns to vote on a 19-article warrant that will set the new budget. It is the only opportunity for voters to act on specific line items requests and makes amendments if desired. Once approved, the approved overall budget number must then be reaffirmed by voters at the polls on June 12 as a yes or no referendum question.

The SAD 17 Budget Committee, chaired by Robert Jewell, SAD 17 representative’s from Paris, is requesting that voters support the proposed budget.

In his budget letter to voters, Superintendent Rick Colpitts said the state Legislature impacted the Fiscal 2019 budget in some “significant” ways this year including opting for a new funding formula for Career and Technical Education that he believes will likely reduce funding for programs. The technical school currently serves more than 400 students in the district’s technical school program.

Additionally, he said, state support of central office costs have been reduced, forcing the taxpayers to pick up the cost of state mandated services. But upfront funding for expanded or new prekindergarten classrooms has been made available and special education funding has been increased, he said.

The proposed budget provides a downward shift in assessments for taxpayers in the district’s 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.

Under the proposed budget assessments would vary town to town. 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.

Colpitts said the proposed budget addresses many academic and program needs and yet the budget still ranks 17 out of 18 schools with budget that exceed$20 million. But, he said, 68 percent of it goes toward supporting classroom instruction. Colpitts said that state average is 61 percent.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net