On Monday, residents from the towns making up School Administrative District 49 will have the chance to vote on the individual items that make up the proposed $26.2 million budget for the 2017-2018 school year.

The $26,202,792.84 budget represents a 1.5 percent hike over the current school budget, which equates to an increase of $387,251.85 over the current budget.

In a letter to residents of those towns — Albion, Benton, Clinton and Fairfield — Superintendent of Schools Dean Baker said despite student enrollment holding steady, the budget reduces the number of employees. The positions lost include a support service worker, an educational technician and a library educational technician. Additionally, two school buses, valued at $90,000 each, also were cut from earlier versions of budget, and some maintenance projects were deferred.

Baker’s first draft of the budget, presented in March, called for an 8 percent increase, but the School Board Finance Committee asked for a smaller increase. He then returned with a 2.5 percent increase. While the committee thought that was a more palatable number, the panel, faced with uncertainties about state funding, wanted to bring that number down more. Eventually the number settled on the 1.5 percent increase.

Freshman sports teams would be eliminated in this latest budget, but Baker said opportunities still would exist for freshman students to play junior varsity and varsity sports, though there would be more competition to get on those teams.

The latest enrollment figures indicated there are 2,124 students attending schools in SAD 49. In order to transport most of those students, the district’s fleet of buses travels over 1,600 miles a day. Jenny Boyden, finance committee chairwoman, said maintaining the buses, staffing drivers and buying fuel are all significant costs.

Boyden noted that over the past 10 years, all schools in the district have received maintenance and facilities improvements. Albion Elementary has received $285,000 worth of improvements; Benton Elementary, $965,000; Clinton Elementary, $627,000; Fairfield Primary, $117,000; Lawrence Junior High School, $264,000; and Lawrence High School, $2.1 million in repairs over the 10-year period.

Regular instruction made up the largest portion of the budget, coming in at more than $10.8 million, which is an increase of nearly $400,000 and is made up of salaries and benefits, books and supplies, and various other equipment. The next largest figure covers facility maintenance, which is proposed at just under $4 million. This is lower than the current year’s figure by about $124,000. After that, the next largest is the proposal for special education at roughly $3.8 million. This, too, is a reduction of more than $62,000.

The proposal also recommends using a one-time allocation of $300,000 to offset a portion of the local share of the increase. That money is coming from a refund the district received from the Maine Public Employees Retirement System for overpaying over the course of several years. A proposal has earmarked the remaining $500,000 of that repayment for a capital reserve budget, where it would remain until voters approve a project that the money would fund.

The modest 1.5 percent increase is in line with past proposals. On average, budget increases over the past five years have been less than 1.5 percent. In that same time frame, state funding has decreased by 6 percent. The last increase larger than that came in the 2015-2016 proposal, when there was an increase of nearly 5 percent.

If approved by residents at the May 15 meeting, the budget will then go to a validation referendum on June 13.

Not included in the overall budget is the $140,000 budget for adult education. Baker said excluding adult education from the final budget figure conforms with a state budgeting model.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

c[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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