MADISON — The proposed 2015-2016 budget for School Administrative District 59 will reduce the amount of school taxes to be raised locally and should help prevent an overall tax increase in the first budget cycle to follow a major loss of valuation at Madison Paper Industries, according to the superintendent.

The proposed $9.56 million budget represents a 4 percent decrease from the current budget and a 9 percent decrease in the amount of school taxes to be raised locally.

The savings in the budget come largely from a proposed law that is expected to change the way charter schools are funded, a state reimbursement for new school buses and savings from the installation of a new geothermal heating system, according to Superintendent Todd LeRoy.

“”We really got very fortunate,” LeRoy said. “We’ve been cutting and trying to be fiscally responsible for our community all along, and we really have very little that we can cut from without cutting programs.” There are no positions or programs being eliminated in the district in the proposed budget.

Residents will have a chance to vote on the budget at a validation meeting Monday at 7 p.m. at the Madison Area Junior High School cafeteria. A referendum is scheduled for Tuesday, June 9.

The district was able to save about $325,000 in charter school costs because of proposed legislation that would fund charter schools directly through the state rather than through districts that send students to those schools. L.D. 131 has been approved by the Maine Legislature and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Paul LePage.

In addition to the change in charter funding, the district will receive a $250,000 reimbursement from the state this year for new school buses purchased last year. A geothermal heating system that was installed three years ago is also continuing to save the district money, LeRoy said.

The 2014-2015 school budget included the elimination of four teaching positions, but this year there are no positions being cut, LeRoy said.

There are some small reductions in operating costs for student instruction, but LeRoy said they are mostly costs for supplies.

Still, the district was cautious in budgeting for the coming year because of a large drop in property value at Madison Paper Industries. The mill lost more than 60 percent of its tax base last year when it was revalued from $229 million to $80 million.

A major loss in tax valuation like the one at Madison Paper Industries will eventually increase the amount of money the district receives from the state in school subsidies, although under the current law it takes three years for the state to fully recognize municipal valuation. Two proposed pieces of legislation, L.D. 281 and L.D. 282, seek to change that, but LeRoy said it is not likely that either law would take affect in time to make a difference in the 2015-2016 budget.

In the meantime, a one-year freeze on teacher salaries and step raises has been negotiated, LeRoy said. The district is also working on similar negotiations to freeze salaries for support staff and administrative assistants. “We need to see where we are next year. With the reassessment of the mill, we should see some additional state revenues based on the fact our property valuation has gone down as much as it has. We didn’t want to go beyond one year because we just don’t know where we’ll be sitting next year,” LeRoy said.

The budget was created with input from the school board, administrators and an advisory committee. The amount of money to be raised locally for the school budget is down 9 percent to $4,972,897.

Residents have not yet approved a town budget, which will be presented at town meeting on Monday, June 8.

“Last year we had that major devaluation at the mill, so for us to be able to come back to the community with a budget that won’t mean an increase in property taxes is pretty incredible,” LeRoy said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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