MADISON — The superintendent of School Administrative District 59 says the cost of sending students to charter schools is among the district’s top concerns as it prepares a budget for the next school year.

“They are really making a difference in the way our budget is going,” said Todd LeRoy, superintendent of Madison-based School Administrative District 59, referring to the charter school students. The district also includes Athens and Brighton Plantation, although those towns are pursuing withdrawal from the district.

LeRoy said the district directed about $285,000 of its funds during the 2012-2013 school year to send students to the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences in Fairfield and the Cornville Regional Elementary School in Cornville.

For 2013-2014, he said he anticipates about $300,000 going to the charter schools, which enroll about 20 students from the district.

In addition, the district also is facing state curtailment of money and the possibility of having to pay teacher retirement costs during the next school year, as well as the possibility of losing Athens and Brighton Plantatipon, along with their taxpayers’ money.

For now, the board anticipates roughly an additional $500,000 in costs being added to the current budget of $11,002,930, LeRoy said. That includes the charter school costs, estimates of more than $150,000 in teacher retirement costs and $61,000 in state curtailments, he said.

“Changes from the governor and state account for a big percentage of the increase we anticipate in the budget, and they are things we can’t do anything about,” LeRoy said.

He said that it is too early to tell how the withdrawals would affect the district.

While the district already has negotiated withdrawal agreements with Athens and Brighton Plantation, those communities must vote on whether to approve the plan to leave Madison-based School Administrative District 59, he said.

For the current school year, Athens contributed $645,019 in local money to the district budget. State funding based on Athens’ valuation contributed 11 percent of the money the district receives from the state, a total of $5,195,299 for the current year. Brighton Plantation contributed $118,922 in local money and 2 percent of the money received from the state.

While the departure of those communities would mean a loss of funds for the district, it would also mean a reduction in costs. The Athens withdrawal plan would mean that that community gains control of Athens Elementary School and the costs associated with maintaining that school, one of four in the district.

For now, LeRoy said, the school board is planning to budget as if the two towns will remain in the district.

“It is easier to take budget money out than put it back in,” he said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368
[email protected]