MADISON — Four teaching positions would be eliminated at Madison schools in the proposed budget, which cuts spending while increasing property taxes.
The School Administrative District 59 budget is up for approval by voters Monday night.
While the Madison district plans to operate on significantly less money in the coming school year, local property owners will pay more because of a cut in state aid for education.
Four teaching positions are being eliminated in the district, along with reductions in several other staff and administrative departments, according to Todd LeRoy, superintendent.
“We try to make any reductions we can through attrition,” LeRoy said.
“We understand how devastating it can be to lose your job and we try not to do that,” LeRoy said. “We tried very hard to make only the reductions that needed to be made and to spread them throughout the district.”
The teaching positions that are being eliminated include two at Madison Elementary School, one at Madison Junior High School and one at Madison Area Memorial High School. The district, which serves only Madison, employs about 70 full-time teachers and administrators, according to the Department of Education.
The high school position and a custodial position are the only layoffs in the district, as the other teachers are retiring and will not be replaced, said LeRoy.
In addition, working hours for some cafeteria workers are being reduced and the hours for an administrative assistant are being cut in half. A speech pathologist in the special education department who is retiring will not be replaced.
The superintendent said the reductions will not lead to any cuts in educational services or programs.
“With the way education is right now, it’s becoming very competitive for schools,” LeRoy said. “Our goal is to produce a high quality of education such that students will want to come here.”
The proposed $9.99 million budget represents a reduction from last year’s $10.08 million package, but it means raising property taxes by $38,000 in local funds, which LeRoy attributes to a cut in funding from the state.
The additional impact on local taxes translates to an increase of $8 on a $100,000 home.
However, without the personnel reductions, LeRoy said the district would be asking the community for an increase of between $600,000 and $700,000 in local support.
In the coming year, the district will receive $3.32 million from the state, which is about $40,000 less than the funds received for the 2013-2014 school year, according to LeRoy. The rest of the money comes primarily from local taxpayers, who will bear an increasing burden for education as state funding decreases, said LeRoy.
The $9.99 million budget is actually about $300,000 less than the current budget, because it includes money for three new buses that the district will be fully reimbursed for from the state.
Without the cost of the buses, the proposed budget is about 3 percent less than current spending.
“A lot of schools are hurting right now, but fortunately we’re able to put out a budget than is fiscally sound as well as good for the tax payers and the community,” said LeRoy.
In nearby Anson-based School Administrative District 74, residents are being asked to approve a 1.6 percent increase in the school budget and in Skowhegan-based School Administrative District 54 residents are being presented with a 2.9 percent increase.
Last year, residents in Madison voted down a $10.36 million budget that included an increase of nearly $1 million in local property taxes. The district issued preliminary layoff notices to 14 of its roughly 105 employees, but in the end there were no layoffs. Instead several positions were reduced from full-time to part-time.
“We make cuts every year and we still have to ask our community for more money,” LeRoy said. “Rather than communities and schools fighting amongst themselves we need to unite and take our needs to Augusta, and tell them it’s time they do something to fulfill their promises and make sure schools in Maine stay strong,” said LeRoy.
The budget validation meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday at the Madison Area Memorial High School cafeteria. It will be preceded by a special town meeting at 6:30 p.m. regarding changing the number of seats on the school board of directors.
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368 | firstname.lastname@example.org