BELFAST - Voters from the eight towns of Regional School Unit 20 will have a chance to review the district’s 2013-14 budget, Tuesday, Sept. 10, at a public meeting and make changes prior the validating referendum on Sept. 17.
The meeting will be held at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast at 7 p.m.
The budget is currently in its third draft after being rejected twice at the polls. In an open letter to voters, RSU 20 Superintendent Brian Carpenter made a plea for approval of the latest version, which is down .21 percent from the last proposed budget and down 1.93 percent from the 2012-2013 budget.
Dollar for dollar, the budget is up by $21,000, but a drop in state aid means the average increase to local taxes would be just over 10 percent, Carpenter said.
“Since 2009, RSU #20 has experienced the loss of approximately a $2.5 million in State subsidy,” the superintendent said in his letter. “In the same time period, the local municipal mil expectation [tax levy] has risen from 6.69 mils in FY10 to 7.86 mils in FY14. Combine these two factors with increased operational costs and it becomes very difficult to create a budget to keep the cost of Pre-K-12 education at a level that satisfies all constituents.”
Cuts to the budget in the current draft would include:
•4.5 Teaching positions•2 support staff•1.5 Library Ed Techs
•Reduction in Food Service•Reduced maintenance •Reductions in technology
•Middle School Co and Extra Curricular stipends
•Supplies and Professional development
•Reductions in Central Office administration and school administration
Carpenter noted that as a result of the public forums, a web survey and conversations residents, the Finance Committee and RSU 20 Board of Directors restored four positions to the budget: one art teacher, the school resource officer and two library ed techs
A breakdown of the loss in revenue provided by the superintendent included the increase of 50 percent in the local contribution for teacher retirement approved by the Maine Legislature, the loss of revenue from Frankfort leaving the district, overall declining student population, costs associated the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, a decrease in revenue from the state and increased health and property insurance.
“Even with all these uncontrolled cost increases, the Finance Committee and the Board of Directors are presenting a budget where expenditures are down $578,000 over 2012-2013,” Carpenter said. “Continuations of cuts of this magnitude in the coming years are not sustainable. To continue to cut at this level will negatively impact the programs and education students will receive in the future. All members of the Board of Directors are aware that other measures need to be taken and as such, will look for alternatives.”
The proposed budget, by cost center can be viewed here.
Ethan Andrews can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org