ST. GEORGE — With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing uncertainty to the State of Maine and uncertainty over public education funding, the St. George Municipal School Unit took steps in its proposed 2020-2021 budget to address those uncertainties and put forth to voters the proposed steps.
The proposed school budget of $6.2 million reduces the assessment, according to St. George MSU Superintendent Mike Felton, to the Town of St. George by about $40,000.
“The proposed budget is part of a long-term strategy to protect our district from the financial impacts of the pandemic,” Felton wrote in a letter to voters. “This strategy includes controlled expenditures, thoughtful use of the school fund balance, and establishing several reserve accounts.”
Earlier versions of the proposed school budget did include increases in the budget and local assessment to pay for the cost of adding a Pre-K program, Felton noted.
“While we remain committed to adding Pre-K at some point in the future, the Board, staff, and Early Childhood Education Working Group decided to wait given the financial impact of the pandemic on our community and the uncertainty as to what school will look like next year,” Felton wrote.
One of the top three uncertainties Felton highlighted in his letter was the risk school districts could see a reduction in state subsidy amid projected state revenue shortfalls caused by the pandemic.
To address this challenge, and others, the proposed school budget reduces the assessment to Town by $40,000 and adopts a longer-term strategy to prepare for future financial uncertainty that could extend into other school years.
As such, the district was able to cut its anticipated state subsidy by 20 percent and reduce the Town assessment by reducing expenditures by about $23,000 and utilizing money from the district’s fund balance.
“This means we are less reliant on state subsidy and better able to adapt if, later this summer or in the fall, the state reduces funding for public education,” Felton said.
In further preparation of the pandemic’s possible financial impacts, the school board is asking voters for permission to establish a few reserve funds to cover unanticipated costs that could arise as a result of the pandemic.
“If these [reserve] funds are not needed, they will be available to help offset costs in future budget years,” Felton noted.
For more details on the proposed school budget, click here.