VASSALBORO — The school district’s budget is increasing by less than half a percent, but local taxpayers still could be on the hook for a hole in revenue left by the state after the governor proposed dozens of changes to the education funding formula.

The proposed budget is $7.38 million, an increase of 0.13 percent over last year’s budget. The largest increases were in special education and transportation.

The increase includes only basic items, such as increased costs and negotiated salaries, superintendent Eric Haley said, and there are “no changes to speak of.”

However, the school, which is part of Alternative Organizational Structure 92 with Waterville and Winslow, also is losing about $329,000 in revenue. The largest revenue decrease is from the state subsidy, which decreased by about $249,000.

Because of the loss, the school would need an additional $338,681 in local tax revenue to fund the school.

“It’s upsetting that we have such a shortfall in our state revenue this year,” said Susan Tuthill, a member of the school board, adding later, “It’s put a really difficult burden on the town to make up the difference on what the state isn’t giving us for revenue.”

While Tuthill thinks the district will get more revenue from the state, not knowing the exact amount made the budget process more difficult, especially with the town’s deadlines and Town Meeting looming.

“The town has been very cooperative and understands the situation,” she said.

The school administration cut $186,839 from the original budget to help adjust for the loss in revenue. The cuts included eliminating one bus and replacing retiring teachers with those at a lower salary level, among other things.

No staff members or positions were cut, Tuthill said, adding that she doesn’t think the cuts are “drastic.”

However, she described the situation as “sad,” particularly because it will make it harder for Vassalboro to pay its teachers a competitive salary.

Schools across Maine are struggling with potentially massive cuts to state revenue after Gov. Paul LePage recommended 48 changes to the funding formula for essential programs and services.

While the administration of AOS 92 is optimistic that the Legislature will change the budget and provide more education funding, it’s doubtful that it will be finalized until the summer.

“It’s hard sledding on budgets anywhere this year because of the revenue,” Haley said.

Both Winslow and Waterville also are dealing with sharp declines in state revenue.

Vassalboro plans to include a warrant article on the ballot in June that would allow the town to use any additional state revenue for schools to offset the tax rate.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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