FAIRFIELD — The area school board has approved a $29.6 million budget proposal for the coming year, a 4.8% increase over last year’s spending plan even as the district anticipates cutting 11 positions.

The Maine School Administrative District 49 board of directors met Thursday and approved the proposed budget, which totals $29,625,431, an increase of about $1.3 million over last year. Superintendent Roberta Hersom said the original budget proposal was almost $2 million higher, an 11% increase from last year, but district officials worked to bring that increase down.

Board members expressed their support for the budget, before approving it in a unanimous vote.

“I feel very comfortable supporting this to our taxpayers,” said Elizabeth Ridgeway, a member representing Benton. “I mean the fact that we are under $30 million is pretty remarkable. And I just think it speaks to that fiscal conservatism that we pride ourselves on at SAD 49.”

Now that the budget has been approved by the board, it will go to an in-person budget meeting in May, where residents of the four district towns will vote article by article for approval. Then the entire budget will go to a referendum vote in June, where it must be approved by the majority of voters.

The proposed budget does include 11 total position cuts, Hersom said. The bulk of those positions to be cut are currently vacant, as the district has been unable to hire staff to fill them. And some of those positions may be vacant come the fall, as staff resign or retire, Hersom said.


Hersom said she can’t say how many currently staffed positions could be cut, but she expects that number to be low. Those decisions would be based on seniority, and staff would be notified after the final June budget referendum.

Officials said they are carefully considering all cuts, to try and preserve the programs at schools.

“A lot of hard decisions went into making this budget and recognizing the impact to our taxpayers while not diminishing the quality of instruction that is being provided,” Ridgeway said.

Hersom said the district faced several increases outside of officials’ control, like rising utilities and a steep increase in special education costs.

The budget for special education increased more than $500,000 this year, a 9% rise in costs. That is due to additional students needing services, Hersom said, and often the district has no choice but to send the student to an outside program, which can be costly.

The facilities budget also had a steep increase of just over 14%, or $576,000. The district has been able to use federal funds to address maintenance issues for the last several years, but that is no longer possible.

The board also voted to add additional articles to the warrant, aimed at creating a contingency fund for the district. The articles will create the fund and give the board permission to direct unallocated money into the fund, and then spend the money with board approval.

Hersom said the district has roughly $80,000 set aside for emergencies, but that is simply not enough to cover major issues that can arise.

Many Maine school districts, including MSAD 49, also recently learned that they would receive more state funding for the 2023-24 school year than expected because of an error in the initial funding allocation. MSAD 49 is set to receive about $329,000 more than originally expected.

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