SKOWHEGAN — School Administrative District 54 residents will go to a public hearing on the proposed budget for the coming year Thursday night hoping for a little bit of extra change in their pockets.

The budget hearing is set for 6 p.m. Thursday in the Skowhegan Area Middle School cafeteria.

With an added $15 million overall in school subsidy from the state and legislation signed by the governor in April giving SAD 54 an extra $194,564 because of the hardship of losing value and taxes from Sappi Fine Paper, district residents are looking at a proposed budget of $33,974,393 for 2016-17. The spending package is 0.67 percent lower than the current budget adopted last year, SAD 54 Superintendent Brent Colbry said.

In February, residents were looking at the possibility of $400,000 in tax increases if early budget projections on state aid didn’t change. The changes came, along with the annual belt-tightening ritual; and the result, if approved May 23 by SAD 54 voters, is a slimmer budget. Local appropriations to fund the budget come in at $13,788,706, or $258,401 less than this year.

Only the town of Cornville will be asked to contribute more to the district budget in the coming year, with a 0.51 percent increase in its share. Local spending in the towns of Canaan, Mercer, Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Smithfield will decrease. Of the total $33.9 million budget, $18.7 million will come from state funding, which is about the same as this year.

To put the proposed budget into perspective, Colbry said, local appropriations, or money from taxes, has been reduced over the past 13 years by about $1.3 million.

Colbry said the savings come from a variety of sources, including a zero percent increase in health insurance; but Madison Paper Co. employees are being laid off, and some of them are married to SAD 54 employees and are seeking health care insurance coverage under the district’s family plan, resulting in an increase in spending of about $69,000.

“We got thinking about Madison with all the layoffs pending over there and how many people that work for us that might have spouses, relatives, family, over there working. Would that have any impact on our health insurance coverage?” Colbry said. “We found out we had to add about $69,000 into our budget to compensate for family members that might be coming back to us because of that closure.”

The proposed budget also reflects the merger of two technology support positions, reducing an education technician position by 75 percent, eliminating $48,000 in new textbook purchases and eliminating $109,000 in supplies, equipment and technology.

There is reduced debt service in the proposed budget because of paying off some loans and leases from the past, reduced transportation costs because of lower fuel prices and more-efficient bus runs and reduced maintenance costs.

There also is a modest increase in salaries following a number of years of wage freezes, Colbry said.

“The board is thinking this is a pretty responsible budget,” Colbry said.

The district budget meeting and votes by SAD 54 residents are scheduled for Monday, May 23. The district budget validation referendum is scheduled for June 14.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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