STRONG — Despite having cut teaching positions, administrators and funding for programs last year, School Administrative District 58 faces similar cuts again to deal with its current budget hole.

Everything from more teacher layoffs to larger class sizes may be necessary to reduce the proposed $10.18 million school budget for 2011-12, according to Superintendent Quenten Clark.

Clark said the budget proposal is preliminary and the school board is likely to cut out “big chunks” over the next month. He expects a vote on the budget sometime in May.

“Last year was particularly grim, and it looks like this year is going to be more of the same,” Clark said.

Last year, the district eliminated five teaching positions, two principals and reduced other spending to cut more than $500,000 out of its budget, according to Clark. Other cuts involved spending less on supplies, athletics and sharing a special education director with Anson-based School Administrative District 74.

On Thursday, Clark presented school board members with the $10.18 million budget proposal. It is $478,809 more than the current budget, but there are position cuts and other options available to reduce the increase, he said.

The school board members will be looking at not replacing teachers who are retiring and some other cuts, Clark said. They will work on the proposal before they vote on specific cuts at a meeting in late April, he said.

Some teaching positions may be cut by combining certain classes in the district’s four elementary schools in Strong, Phillips, Stratton or Kingfield.

Some Kindergarten to sixth-graders have been combined into single classrooms in past years due to smaller enrollment, and decisions this year would be based on which schools have the fewest students, Clark said.

The school board has been considering closing an elementary school because of decreased enrollment in the district. There are problems in developing a plan, however, because the district covers communities from a large area, according to Clark.

“This year in SAD 58 is staffing decisions, but one of the things that the school board has been trying to get to is ‘what is the plan,'” he said, referring to cutting positions vs. closing a building.

The increase in the proposed budget estimates $2.64 million in state aid, requiring $4.2 million in the local share. The state aid is down $133,033 from last year.

The district also is incurring a $140,670 administrative consolidation penalty, which is up from last year when the district paid $133,258.

Voters’ recently defeated a proposal to form an alternative organizational structure with a SAD 74. The merger may have eliminated the consolidation penalty.

The Maine Legislature is considering bills that would eliminate the penalty, according to Clark, but a decision is not expected before the school budget vote.

If the penalty is removed after a school budget is passed, the school board would consider whether to reduce the local assessment because of the savings, he said.

In other action, the school board members worked on a plan to find a new superintendent for the district.

Clark was recently hired by Union 113 as part-time superintendent in East Millinocket, Medway and Woodville. His last day in SAD 58 is August 15.


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