OAKLAND — The RSU 18 Board of Directors next week will consider a proposed $32 million school budget for 2011-12 — a budget that is $1.4 million or 4.2 percent less than — the current $33.3 million budget.

The board will discuss the budget at 6 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at Messalonskee Middle School.

Superintendent Gary Smith presented the first draft of the proposal to board members Wednesday night. Next week, the board will discuss 11 cost centers in the budget before adopting a proposal May 4.

The budget then would go before voters at a districtwide meeting May 25 and residents will vote on the proposal at a referendum June 7.

“In general, I think we’re roughly near where we need to be and now it’s a fine-tuning process of getting board and community input,” Smith said Thursday.

Several factors allowed Smith to present a budget that is significantly lower than the current budget, including 30 to 35 fewer secondary China tuitioned students, which amounted to a savings of nearly $10,000 per student, according to Smith.

Some teachers retired and were not replaced, enrollments declined and the central office was reorganized after the business director left, saving $60,000 to $70,000, he said. Energy-efficiency projects proceeded more slowly than planned, so costs were for 1/2 rather than a full year, he said.

“We deferred maintenance projects, we cut back on technology funding and flatlined and decreased supplies,” he said.

There was not a lot of money for raises, and the district expects health insurance increases to be eight percent or less, he said.

“Most area schools are at 10 percent,” he said.

Less than $600,000 was made available to the district last year from the federal jobs bill, but officials chose to save the money for this year, according to Smith

“So that, right there, saves 10 positions,” he said.

The district is working with Waterville-based Alternative Organizational Structure 92 on some costs, including RSU 18 doing continued bus maintenance for AOS 92.

The two districts in the past tried sharing a food service director and that did not work out, but now they plan to do it again.

“I think we now have learned from that and we have the right people in place and we think that it will be very successful,” Smith said.

Officials also are looking at having students who receive diplomas in the Mid-Maine Adult Education program get them from that program itself instead of from their separate high schools, which would result in some savings, according to Smith.

The district was looking at possibly losing five to eight positions, including teachers and teacher aides, but officials were able to work with the budget so that those positions will likely be saved.

“With respect to one position — due to lost stimulus money — we were able to create opportunities in the system for all staff,” Smith said.

Administrators and staff tackled a space problem at James Bean School in Sidney by creatively rearranging the school, spending no money and saving about $100,000, which would have been the cost to fix the problem, according to Smith.

The school now also has an extra classroom as a result, he said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

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