GARDINER — The Maine School Administrative District 11 school board unanimously approved its $26.82 million school budget for next year.

The proposed spending plan for 2021-2022 includes an increase of $663,000 — or 2.53% — which was approved last week. The school nutrition budget of $1.09 million and adult education budget of $313,320, were also approved by board members.

A virtual public hearing via Zoom has been set for June 1, in advance of West Gardiner, Gardiner, Pittston and Randolph voting on the budget June 8.

If the budget passes, the local share of the spending plan to be raised by taxes will be $10.61 million, an overall increase of $633,161 — or 5.96% — from the current budget amount of $9.97 million. The local share breakdown by towns is:

• Gardiner — $3.94 million, an increase of $220,391 — or 5.93%

• Pittston — $2.33 million, an increase of $165,892 — or 7.68%

• Randolph — $1.01 million, an increase of $63,544 — or 6.71%

• West Gardiner — $3.33 million, an increase of $183,332 — or 5.83%

MSAD 11 Business Manager Andrea Disch said part of the reason why the town allocation is larger this year because of an increase in the state valuation average, which plays a role in the municipal allocation.

Pittston has the highest town allocation increase, as well as the largest state valuation average increase at 5%. Randolph’s state valuation rose by 4%, while West Gardiner and Gardiner both increased by 3.2%.

“I know the taxpayers have been botching us, but the committee worked diligently to look at the funds being requested,” school board member James Lothridge said. “Administration cut as much as possible without sacrificing a quality education for students.

“We have everything we need and nothing was extra,” he added. “It was a tough year and the increases were necessary, not something we took on frivolously.”

Included in the $26.82 million budget is $11.70 million for regular instruction, a 2.9% increase, and $4.34 million for special education, a 6.69% increase. System administration is budgeted for $778,126, a 4.34% increase; school administration is budgeted for $1.59 million, 5.34% increase; and transportation is budgeted for $1.85 million, a 3.52% increase.

Adult education’s budget of $313,320 represents a 4.4% increase.

Josh Farr, adult education program director, said the $13,320 increase is being driven by hiring an educator to help students who need extra help due to their education being affected by the coronavirus pandemic. He said most students need help with math.

The nutrition program’s budget also is increasing, but only by 0.37%.

In addition to the local share, MSAD 11 is anticipating $1.68 million in revenues, which includes $1.33 million carryover funding.

“I just wanted to point out, we have several things we are required to pay,” school board member Matthew Marshall said. “We have no control over several of those things. I do think this year, the staff has done a remarkable job of taking care of things that needed to be paid for with federal money.”

School board Chairperson Becky Fles said Disch and MSAD 11 Superintendent Patricia Hopkins have worked to write grants and use coronavirus relief funds to reduce the impact of the budget.

“We have been so fortunate that everything we asked for has been granted, so it’s not an additional burden,” Fles said. “There are many things we aren’t able to say no to, and we would do it because it’s the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to take care of our kids.”

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