GARDINER — Ahead of election day, the Maine School Administrative District 11 board is moving $358,000 from the district’s carry-over fund to reduce the town allocation portion of the proposed budget.

The proposed budget for MSAD 11 is $26,824,000 an increase of $663,000 — or 2.53% — from last year. The town allocation portion of the budget for next year was $10,607,598 — an increase of $633,161 or 6.23% before the change was made. The decision the school board made to move $358,000 to the town allocation portion of the budget cuts next year’s increase nearly in half.

The change to the town allocation will be discussed Tuesday when the municipalities vote on the school budget.

The amount of $358,000 was inspired by the amount the district could receive if Gov. Janet Mill’s proposed spending plan for the state is approved by the Legislature. The plan designates 55% of public school budgets to be funded by the state, which for MSAD 11, would be nearly $608,000, according to district Business Manager Andrea Disch.

Though Disch and Superintendent Pat Hopkins are “confident” the state’s spending plan will pass, they are unsure if it will go to vote before June 17, when MSAD 11 has to finalize the town allocation amount for the municipalities.

The motion to move the funding, which came at a meeting Thursday was in the event the proposition is not passed, or not passed in time.

Disch said July 1 is when most municipalities ask for the final town allocation so the tax rate can be set.

“Once I deliver the bill to those towns, they are going to have to include it in their tax bill,” Disch said. “So the question is, will we, or won’t we, know by the time we sign the assessments on the 17th, if the” Legislature approved the additional amount.

MSAD 11 town allocation before $358,000 was added to cut town allocation increase in nearly half. Screenshot via Zoom

“If I deliver the assessments to the towns, then they will have to generate that revenue,” Disch continued. “The tax bills will go out and if we return that money, tax payers will not see it in their tax bill, it will sit in the town’s carry-over. There is no mechanism for them to return it, to the citizens once that vote has been presented, so it’s important if we want tax payers to see relief in this budget year for us to reflect that reduction.”

She said if the school board did not designate carry-over funds to mimic the potential amount granted from the state, it would be harder to go back and change the amount after it was voted on. To do so, there would have to be another vote to approve the use of the state granted money to reduce the amount on the tax payer.

The motion passed 9-1, with Matthew Marshall voting against it, not in disagreement, but rather out of a desire for more money from the carry-over used to offset the amount for taxpayers. Board Chairperson Becky Fles did express concern in using the carry-over funds if it could hurt the district in the future.

“You’re right, we don’t usually, but this has been an interesting year, and not knowing where things would turn in a given moment,” Disch said in response to Fles, adding that federal coronavirus funds paid for certain areas of the budget like substitute teachers. In the past, the district would have to pay for those items.

Town allocation impact after moving $358,000 from carry-over funds, or if Gov. Janet Mills’ proposition passes. Screenshot via Zoom

MSAD 11 keeps two years worth of carry-over funds in the budget, and can’t keep more than 3% of their budget. It’s used in the event the district has a “substantial loss of subsidy” and there are “statues and limitations to what we can carry,” Disch said. Carry-over money can’t sit in the account for more than three years, and has to be used for “reducing the burden of tax payers” or put in a reserve account.

She said the school budget used over $1.3 million in last year’s carry-over funds and that the district usually has around $1.4 million in carry-over from a given school year.

“We believe we could cover in carry-forward based on where we are. There are still additional capital improvement projects, but (we) feel good about where we are,” Disch said.

Disch said she is unsure how long the state will fund 55% of the budget if the bill passes, but thinks it’s around two years.


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