FAIRFIELD — A revised budget for SAD 49 was unanimously adopted by the school board at a special meeting Thursday.

In the short meeting, members of the board’s finance committee outlined almost $427,680 in cuts to the current budget, bringing the proposed spending plan down to $25.4 million.

The cuts include loss of staff positions, reductions to extracurricular programs and large reductions in transportation and facilities maintenance.

On May 19, voters in Fairfield, Albion, Benton and Clinton, the four towns covered by SAD 49, rejected a proposed $25.9 million budget in a validation referendum. That budget reflected a 3 percent increase over the previous year’s spending.

In comparison, the budget adopted by the board Thursday is roughly 1.4 percent larger.

“We as a board, the board leadership, finance committee, have heard suggestions from citizens and constituents of these towns,” said School Board Chairman Steve Grenier.

He added, that the majority of the budget increase was due to cost increases from the state.

Board members have repeatedly stated that increases in local spending are primarily driven by cost shifts from the state, including funding for Maine State Retirement and increases in the amount the district is required to raise locally. District officials also estimate SAD 49 will lose approximately $412,000 in state financial aid from last year.

Stephanie Thibodeau, a Fairfield town councilor, said after the meeting she was happy the board had gotten the budget down to a 1.4 percent increase, but she feared that more work would be needed in the future to keep a sustainable budget.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Thibodeau said.

The areas of largest reductions were $142,000 from the $4.2 million facilities maintenance line and more than $93,000 from the $1.7 million transportation budget. The district’s $4 million special education budget is also taking a $75,000 hit.

According to Grenier and Vice Chairwoman Shelley Rudnicki, the cuts will mean the elimination of three to four positions which will not be filled after current employees retire.

But other programs and services face reductions.

Extracurricular activities like athletics, drama, and music programs will take an across the board cut of approximately $38,500.

After the vote, Grenier said he would be looking to cut some funding to sports programming, a proposal that provoked a strong reaction in the district.

On Thursday, Rudnicki said that no programs would be targeted for cuts and the reduction would be felt across the board, but was uncertain where specific savings would be found within the district’s extracurricular program offerings.

“Sports did share in the cuts,” Grenier said.

The district will be losing the equivalent of one full-time administrator by cutting $30,315 from the system administration budget and almost $48,700 from the school administration line. The district has been criticized for having too many administrators for the size of its student body. In an interview after the meeting, Grenier said that the school district already had a below-average number of administrators before the cuts.

“We have listened to the taxpayers in the reduction of administration,” Grenier said following the meeting.

“With the vice chair, I’ve obtained everything I wanted to,” he said.

Voters will get a first chance to act on the board’s proposal at a district-wide budget meeting on June 11.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire


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