SKOWHEGAN — Increases in district salaries and benefits, along with contracted and support services, are projected to be up slightly in the coming year for School Administrative District 54, the superintendent said Wednesday.

The preliminary budget for 2019-20 comes in at $36,756,420, or about 2.97 percent over the current budget year that ends June 30.

“We’re early in the game,” SAD 54 Superintendent Brent Colbry said. “We’ve got a long way to go yet.”

Colbry said revenues from the state are projected to be up by more than $900,000 over the current year, or just enough to cover spending increases across the board. He is projecting the state contribution to SAD 54 will be about $20.7 million, up from the $19.8 million the district received last year for the current budget.

“There’s a significant increase in state aid for special education to reflect the increased cost the schools are getting,” he said. “Five or six hundred thousand of that is just special ed increases. And of course, they put more money in the formula this year, too. The proposed governor’s budget puts more money in for education, and it trickles down.”

He said, in the draft of the budget, there is only a $31,683 increase in the local share, a task that the school board has hammered out over recent weeks.

The district is comprised of six towns: Canaan, Cornville, Mercer, Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Smithfield.

Last year’s budget was approved at $35.7 million.

“If these revenue figures stay the same and we’re able to keep the budget relatively the same, it’s a very reasonable request of the communities,” Colbry said. “It kind of reinforces what this board has done all along — any time we get any new money, we try to benefit taxpayers.”

Colbry said the school board has budgeted $69,536 this year for the handling of all legal issues, the same as was approved last year.

“We left it the same because that covers everything that we do — negotiations, legal issues, those kind of things,” he said.

Since January 2018, having an attorney for legal issues, including the retirement of the “Indians” nickname for sports teams, has cost the district $15,500 in legal fees. The cost includes general legal advice, legal costs associated with holding a January forum at which the public was able to offer their opinions to the school board with the district’s lawyer present, and meetings and consultations with the board’s attorney.

The SAD 54 Board of Directors voted 14-9  March 7 to “respectfully retire” the nickname “Indians” for all schools in the district. Supporters of keeping the “Indians” nickname have mounted a petition drive to revisit the vote.

With weighted votes from each of the six SAD 54 towns, the vote was 558 favoring change and 441 against it.

Colbry said the proposed budget includes a 3/5ths-time nurse position, one resource room teacher at North Elementary and four education technicians for special education.

He said $220,000 already has been chopped from the first draft of the budget, including some text books, some supplies, some furniture requests, technology requests and field trips.

“They aren’t big numbers, but it adds up over a budget of this size,” Colbry said. “To get down to this number, we made some reductions. We haven’t cut any staff.”

Spending lines in the preliminary “status quo” budget include:

• Regular instruction — $13,073,378, up 2.78 percent

• Special education — $8,481,952, up 4 percent

• Career and technical education — $1,638,099, up 6.25 percent

• Student and staff support — $2,861,206, up 2.94 percent

• System administration — $715,354, up 2.47 percent

• School administration — $1,692,606, up  2.79 percent

• Transportation and buses — $2,139,309, up 2.13 percent

• Facilities maintenance — $3,315,492,  up 3.38 percent

Colbry said the district’s debt service is projected to drop 2.29 percent to $1,977,846.

Colbry said the school board is expected to adopt a finished budget at their meeting May 2. An information meeting for public comment is set for May 9 in the middle school cafeteria, with the district budget meeting for all SAD 54 residents to vote on the spending package set for  7 p.m. May 21 in the high school gymnasium.

The required validation vote by referendum is scheduled for June 11 in each town.

 

Doug Harlow — 612-2367
[email protected]
Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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