|4/9/2014 2:00:00 PM|
RSU 40 Board Approves Proposed Budget
By Dominik LobkowiczThe RSU 40 board of directors approved a proposed budget for the 2014-2015 school year April 3. The budget is up 3.37 percent over last year, but would only result in a 0.59 percent increase to local taxpayers if voters approve it.
The board approved the proposed budget at $22,893,569.80, an increase of $746,139.22. By weighted vote, the budget passed 619 to 184.
The biggest change in the proposed budget is a $636,938.51 or 18.37 percent increase to special education, all of which are not new costs for the district.
According to RSU 40 Business Manager Karla Miller, the change is due not only to increased student needs in high school and incoming kindergarteners, but an inclusion of certain expenditures and revenues in the budget this year that were normally accounted for in funds separate from the general fund budget.
More than $200,000 in contracted services required by individual education plans for special education students were moved into the budget; services not included in the budget voters approved for the current year, Miller said in an interview April 7.
The services are offset on the revenue side by anticipated reimbursement for the services.
Those services, which include physical and occupational therapy and psychological services, are for MaineCare-eligible students and the district can bill the Department of Health and Human Services for those services, she said.
Without those expenditures and revenues included, the overall budget would be up only $546,139.22, or 2.47 percent, according to budget documents.
Still, the "large population" of special education students expected next year will necessitate the hiring for four new ed techs, Miller said.
The next-largest change in the proposed budget is a $146,853.60, 1.76 percent increase to regular instruction, approved at $8,841,885.84.
The proposed budget includes contractual 2 percent salary increases for teachers and support staff, Miller said.
The budget also includes proposed pre-kindergarten programs for Miller Elementary School and Warren Community School. Both schools would see the addition of a pre-K teacher and ed tech, according to budget documents.
At Warren, the program would be a "wash" monetarily with the reduction of single teaching positions in fourth and fifth grade (one currently filled with a long-term substitute and the other with a retiring teacher) and the addition of the pre-K staff and a literacy interventionist, Miller said.
According to Miller, the proposed staff cuts at Warren were based on the student count and an expectation that the literacy interventionist could make a bigger difference than smaller class sizes.
If the two pre-K programs are implemented and fully-filled by students, the additional students could add $178,000 in state subsidy (based on current rates) in future years, Miller said. Because of the way such subsidy is calculated, the potentially increased student counts and subsidy would be in effect partially in the 2015-2016 school year and fully in the 2016-2017 school year, she said.
The pre-K programs could handle a total of 64 half-time students, each of which would count as 1.01 students for the purposes of state subsidy calculation, she said.
Increases in regular instruction were partially mitigated by the reduction of several positions: two teaching positions at Medomak Middle School (one teacher on sabbatical and one other that retired); a half-time teaching position at Medomak Valley High School; an ed tech position in the district's alternative education program; and one day of art, music, and physical education at Warren.
Cutting library staff, adding administration
At the board's April 3 meeting, member Guy Bourrie, of Washington, proposed to restore library positions cut in the budget and instead cut out a half-time assistant principal position for Medomak Valley High School - an effort that ultimately failed.
The student and staff support budget category is proposed at $1,928,762.43, a decrease of $137.165.52 or 6.64 percent which Miller said on April 7 include a cut of two full-time library ed tech positions: a one day reduction each at Miller Elementary School, Warren Community School, and Medomak Middle School; two days at Friendship Village School; and cutting ed techs at Prescott Memorial School and Union Elementary School back to half time.
Prescott and Union would share a full-time position under the proposal, and three ed techs would cover Warren, Miller, Friendship, and the middle school, Miller said.
Though most of the schools are losing a day of ed tech coverage each week, a full-time district librarian would be there during the day that was not covered, Miller said.
Prescott and Union do not have students in the library every day of the week and so do not need full-time library coverage, Miller said.
"It was felt, with their enrollment at right around 100, that they could possibly have the secretary sign a book out for a student if they needed it," she said.
The reduction of two library ed tech positions goes against a policy of the board to do everything it can to promote literacy, while adding administration goes against what the voters want, Bourrie said at the meeting.
Other board members spoke in favor of keeping the proposed cuts and additions.
Ann Donaldson, a board member from Union, said the half-time assistant principal would help things operate more smoothly at the high school and keep it safe.
Waldoboro board member Dana Dow also said he would support the assistant principal position for the upcoming school year.
Lynda Letteney, also a Waldoboro board member, said she believes the amount of books checked out by students would not be much affected by restoring the ed techs in the libraries.
The proposed budget includes adding a total of 1.5 administrative positions: the half-time high school assistant principal position, a half-time assistant principal for Medomak Middle School, and full-time teaching principal position for Friendship Village School.
Principal Julia Levensaler and Assistant Principal Casey Lufkin would be full-time at Miller Elementary School instead of splitting between that school and Friendship, due to the increased students from the pre-K program, according to Miller.
Miller said the added administration is an effort to keep a good ratio of administrators to students in the school.
Both the high school and middle school have discipline issues that the current administrators do not have time to deal with, and the high school is also implementing new standards for a proficiency-based diploma, Miller said.
Overall, the school administration category is proposed at $1,444,338.09, an increase of $111,260,99 or 8.35 percent.
If the budget is approved, property taxpayers would bear a relatively small portion of the increase to the overall budget: a 0.59 percent increase overall, compared to the current year.
State subsidy would increase $240,280.64 or 2.8 percent to $8,900,262.49. The subsidy figure is preliminary but not expected to change, according to Miller.
The addition of $200,000 of MaineCare reimbursements and an increased use of fund balance - $680,000 up from $440,000 this year - would also help cover the increase, according to budget documents.
Including $55,000 for adult education that the board has not yet approved, budget documents indicate the district's towns would need to pay the following to cover the total budget: Friendship, $1,721,612.22, up $34,002.51 or 2.01 percent; Union, $1,961,882.98, up $2,060.59 or 0.11 percent; Waldoboro, $4,560,644.57, down $60,253.91 or 1.3 percent; Warren, $3,503,654.08, up $114,753.99 or 3.39 percent; and Washington, $1,295,526.50, down $14,691.56 or 1.12 percent.
Voters will finalize the budget numbers at the district budget meeting on Tuesday, May 27, and a budget validation referendum will be held on Tuesday, June 10, Miller said.
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