SKOWHEGAN — The elimination of $964,000 in charter school tuition and transportation costs in the proposed school budget for the coming year will be offset in part by added costs in special education, school bus purchases and pay raises for teachers and district administrators, including Superintendent Brent Colbry.

Colbry on Monday said spending in the 2015-16 budget will increase about $356,000 or about 1 percent to a total of $34,205,187. The budget for the six towns of School Administrative District 54 was approved by voters last year at $33,849,235.

Local allocations, or taxes paid to support the budget beyond what the state provides, will increase by $50,290, or 0.35 percent, to be spread over the district towns of Canaan, Cornville, Mercer, Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Smithfield. The warrant for the district budget meeting was signed by all members of the school board last week, and copies were sent to the district town offices on Friday.

The annual district budget meeting is Tuesday, May 26. The budget validation referendum is set for each town Tuesday, June 9.

The district will save $964,000 that had been earmarked for charter school tuition for students living in SAD 54 who attend charter schools. But the Legislature passed a bill taking the charter school tuition money out of state aid for all local districts.

“We took the charter school money out, then we applied the new budget costs. Some things come in, some things go away,” Colbry said Monday.

On average, teachers will see a pay raise of about 3.3 percent for what is the final year of a three-year contract,” he said.

Colbry said teachers have gone without pay raises for two years. Administrators, including himself, have gone without a raise for three years. About 18 administrators would also receive $2,500 each as a competitive “adjustment” on top of a 3.3 percent increase included in the proposed budget.

The superintendent said he is not going back on his word when he told officials in each of the district towns that he would not take another pay raise within the new contract he was given in 2012. He said the new pay increase will be part of a new three-year contract.

“It’s been three years. I’ve been four years without any kind of an increase, and so the board decided I should be treated the same as all the other people,” he said. “We’re three years out. Things have changed, responsibilities have changed, and the board was interested in terminating the old contract and writing a new one for three years.”

Colbry, 63, would retire in 2018 under that agreement, but the board also has considered allowing him to retire this year and be rehired at a 25 percent reduced salary, which he said would be a saving of about $35,000 a year for taxpayers.

“I’m not going back on my word. I’m simply saying we’re renegotiating the contract,” he said.

His salary has a base of $110,000, plus cash reimbursements for not taking the district’s health benefits package. In all, with workers compensation, unemployment and Maine State Retirement, Colbry is paid the annual equivalent of $141,679.

Colbry said that among the changes in his responsibilities over the past three years is the loss of a business manager and a facilities manager, which meant additional responsibilities for the superintendent.

The new budget, which goes to taxpayers at the annual budget meeting May 26, also includes hikes in health insurance and a 13 percent increase in payments into the Maine State Retirement System, a cost that the state has been shifting to the cities and towns.

There also are five new education technician positions for special education and a new special education teacher in the proposed budget. There are no layoffs in the proposal, he said. A teacher has been added to the Norridgewock school because of increased class size.

“The budget for this coming year is we’ve got salary adjustments and some addition staff for special ed kids, so that’s up,” he said. “State retirement is up. Health insurance is up by 3.6 percent.”

Colbry said district debt service is up slightly for the payment of five new school buses, the cost of which will be reimbursed by the state.

He added that the district is hoping that the state comes up with an additional $20 million — $23 million in aid to education, as has been discussed in the Legislature. If additional state aid becomes available after the budget is passed, the assessment to each town will be lowered, he said.

“The bottom line is, yes, we are not going to pay out $900,000-plus for charter schools, but our costs rose during the same time so we basically used that money to offset the increases and end up with almost a zero-percent-increase budget,” Colbry said. “It’s really a pretty responsible budget given the times.”

He said Skowhegan’s projected share of the overall budget will be down to 66.85 percent from 67.19 percent because of the lower tax valuation of the Sappi paper mill. The other five district towns will pick up the difference.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow


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