PITTSFIELD — The first phase of the $10.14 million School Administrative District 53 budget passed Thursday night with little fanfare.

About 75 voters overwhelmingly approved the 16-article warrant with only a handful of questions.

The only article requiring a written ballot, which was for $996,429 in additional local money that exceeded the state’s Essential Programs and Services allocation, passed by a 68-2 margin.

The new budget is 2.46 percent higher than last year; and if Thursday night’s vote is ratified by voters on Tuesday, June 12, property taxes in Burnham on an $80,000 home would rise from $1,188 to $1,267 annually; in Detroit from $1,059 to $1,153; and in Pittsfield from $1,432 to $1,480.

Budget Committee Chairwoman Jan Laux, Superintendent Michael A. Gallagher and board Vice-Chairwoman Michelle Hodgins all supported the increase, noting that the district budget had shrunk for three consecutive years.

“The Budget Committee and board (of directors) have been very fiscally responsible,” Gallagher said. “But we needed to fix some things that didn’t go well and it will simply cost us more money.”

The new budget includes the addition of a third-grade teaching position which will bring the pupil-to-teacher ratio to 20 to 1 and the upgrade of part-time assistant principals’ positions at Manson Park, Vickery Elementary and Warsaw Middle School. The hours of some education technician positions that were scaled back last year are increased in the new budget and more hours will be devoted to maintenance.

One position that has been eliminated is a middle school Spanish teacher. Gallagher explained that when the budget was under discussion, the position wasn’t high on the board’s priority list.

“It was also difficult to find and retain someone in that position,” he said.

Laux said he supported more maintenance spending, because the three remaining schools in the district are aging but structurally sound.

During a public hearing after the budget meeting, Gallagher explained the fee structure involved in contracting Maine Central Institute as the district’s high school.

Although the contract is 10 years, the cost will be based on a rolling three-year average of student enrollment, he said.

Currently, MCI has 315 students; and the maximum tuition allowance per pupil in Maine private schools for the 2012-11 fiscal year was $9,238.

Voters on will be asked to approve the contract June 12.


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