SKOWHEGAN — Voters at the School Administrative District 54 budget meeting Wednesday night at the high school approved the proposed 2017-18 budget of just over $33.8 million without comments or questions.

About 50 residents and school board directors from the SAD 54 towns of Canaan, Cornville, Skowhegan, Mercer, Norridgewock and Smithfield agreed to the spending plan, which is about $174,000, or half of 1 percent, lower than the current budget passed this time last year.

It is a good budget, SAD 54 Superintendent Brent Colbry after the vote.

“I’m very satisfied with the way the budget went,” Colbry said. “I think given the loss of state aid and issues we’re facing with increased costs, we found a fair balance for the citizens.”

But the costs will not come without some cuts — teachers, supplies, equipment, textbooks, field trips and extracurricular activities. A restructuring of technology purchases away from one-time purchases to a multi-year approach is also included. Cuts also include the elimination of a new bus purchase this year and reducing the maintenance budget by $46,000.

Colbry said earlier that a total of 7.5 positions are eliminated districtwide in the new budget, including one elementary school principal position. He said the positions of four teachers who are retiring will not be filled in the proposed budget, but with high enrollment at Mill Stream Elementary School in Norridgewock, a kindergarten teacher will need to be added. The current principal at Margaret Chase Smith Elementary School is retiring, so the plan, Colbry said, is to combine the principal’s job there with that of North Elementary School, resulting in one principal for both schools.

A portion of a social studies position is cut under the new spending package and a vacant half-position in teacher computer support at the high school will not be filled.

Two educational technician positions also will be eliminated, he said.

Colbry said increases in spending came with the addition of five special education staff members, a 9.56 percent increase in health insurance costs, a shift of $93,363 in Maine state retirement costs from the state to the district, and increases in contracted services, fuel, supplies, books and technology.

To reduce the budget, Colbry said, the board made at least a 10 percent decrease in all nonpersonnel areas of the budget and up to 50 percent in some areas. Colbry said that even with all the cuts amounting to $1.74 million from this year’s original proposed draft, it left the need for about $500,000 to close the revenue gap spread out over the six towns of SAD 54. The local assessment in the proposed budget is about $14.3 million, which is up $500,000 from the current budget, which expires June 30.

He said the local assessment closes the gap between the $17.8 million from the state and the $33.8 million needed to round out the entire budget for the coming year.

Highlights of the proposed budget to be voted on Wednesday night include:

• $11.9 million for regular instruction;

• $7.7 million for special education;

• $2.4 million for student and staff support;

• $1.5 million for school administration;

• $1.9 million for transportation and buses; and

• $2.2 million for debt service and other commitments.

The SAD 54 budget validation referendum vote is scheduled for each town June 13. The referendum ballot also will include a question asking district residents to issue bonds not to exceed $438,753 through the state’s zero-interest loan program for repairs and improvements at the high school to include the removal of all asbestos floor tiles and replacing them with asbestos-free tiles.

The state Department of Education will forgive about 58 percent of the loan, up to an estimated $255,749. The district will be obliged to repay the rest, about $183,000 over a five-year term.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow