GARDINER — An initial draft of the Maine School Administrative District 11’s 2021-2022 budget is proposing a $2.08 million — or 7.93% — spending increase.

For the current budget, which runs through June 30, MSAD 11 has approved spending of $26.16 million; it is proposing $28.24 million for the 2021-2022 school year.

To make up that difference, the school district is currently proposing $2.05 million more to be raised by taxes from its member towns — Gardiner, Pittston, Randolph and West Gardiner — an increase of 20.51% from the current budget. The amount to be raised by local taxes for the current year totals $9.97 million; the district is proposing $12.02 million to be raised by taxes for 2021-2022.

But district officials don’t expect this version to be the final product.

“There is a lot of work to be done, this is at first glance,” MSAD 11 Business Manager Andrea Disch said. “The finance committee saw it before (the) administration. I just finished it during vacation and they were getting a glance at request. It’s extremely preliminary.”

Driving the spending increase is the special education budget, anticipated to rise by $1.1 million — or 27.24% — to $5.16 million, largely due to salary increases and tuition paid for the special purpose private school.

Superintendent Pat Hopkins said there have been many conversations on how to accommodate those needs without factoring it largely into the budget.

“We are seeing students that require services that we have not been able to provide in our STEPS program,” she said. “We are going to have to expand the STEPS program. It’s currently housed over at Laura E. Richards School, but we are going to have to move it to another building.”

Hopkins said the move could be to a different building or mobile units that could be set up at the program’s current location.

Transportation expenses also are projected to increase by $147,081 — $120,575 for transporting special education students — an increase of 8.22% to a total of $1.94 million. The facilities maintenance part of the budget also is expected to increase by $322,631 — or 10.57% — t0 $3.37 million.

The school district also has seen a decrease in revenue from sources it would rely on in a normal year. For example, Disch noted, it has not yet received revenue derived from the school musical or athletics.

In addition to the amount to be raised by taxes, the district is proposing to carry forward $1.33 million, and is anticipating $14.53 million in state revenue sharing.

“We are at the very beginning stages of the budget,” Hopkins said. “I’ve asked Andrea (Disch) to share the draft budget proposal that we currently have.

“I want the board members to understand that it in no way represents the final budget that we are going to present to the public,” she added.

Hopkins said MSAD 11 should receive a little more than $1 million from the next round of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds, which will help offset revenue losses in other areas.

“We will have to wait and see what that will have to offer,” she said. “We may be able to fund some of the things on the budget like special education, but we have to be careful that we don’t set ourselves up and we have to budget for two to three years when the ESSER is gone. We don’t want to unintentionally hurt taxpayers down the road.”

The district’s Finance Committee will be meeting weekly until the budget is finalized.

Voting logistics are still being determined, but due to Gov. Janet Mills’s extended executive order, a virtual public hearing may take place for the budget approval process, instead of an in-person meeting in the gym of one of the district’s schools.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.