GARDINER — The School Board has approved a $30.1 million budget for Gardiner-based Maine School Administrative District 11 that carries an increase of about 13% in the amount each municipality must contribute. 

The board passed the spending plan in an 11-1 vote Thursday. It will go to voters for approval in a June 13 referendum.

Jeff Hanley was the sole member to oppose the budget after saying he wanted to use more of the district’s undesignated fund balance to offset the amount municipalities will have to raise through taxes. 

The $30,105,000 budget poses a 6.67% overall increase from the spending plan for the current year, driven up mostly by contractual salary increases.

It uses $1.3 million of the district’s undesignated carryover fund to reduce the local share. 

Valuations in the MSAD 11 municipalities — Gardiner, West Gardiner, Pittston and Randolph — went up by 6% on average this year. Town valuations are a key factor the state Department of Education uses to determine how much a community can afford to contribute to the budget of its school district. Even if the budget did not have any increases from the current year, the MSAD 11 communities would still have to pay at least 6% more for the 2023-24 budget than they did for the current year because of how the state calculates its subsidies for school districts, officials said. 


Hanley, a former state legislator who joined the board in April, suggested using $1.7 million of the fund balance instead of $1.3 million, but Business Manager Andrea Disch advised against that because she said the money will be needed if the town valuations continue to rise on a yearly basis.  

In advocating for using more of the fund balance, Hanley said he was “trying to find a way not to have a tax increase on homeowners.”  

“The people we represent have enough financial pressure on them,” he said. 

With the proposed budget, the district will have $4,030,250 in carryover funds by the end of 2024. 

A carryover fund is leftover unspent money from the previous budget year. It is controlled by state law and can only be used to offset the taxpayer burden. The amount used in carryforward money cannot exceed 9% of the previous year’s budget. The percentage increased from 5% to 9% during the pandemic.   

“I did a worksheet,” Disch said. “‘What If I brought everyone’s ‘increase’ to 0%’? We’d have to use $2.7 million out of the fund balance and we would run out of the fund balance — you wouldn’t even have until the end of 2025 to carry us.” 


State subsidies are primarily based on the average municipal valuation over the past three years and the number of students enrolled in a school district. Most districts this year are receiving less money from the state because of the increase in property valuation. 

The amount the four MSAD 11 municipalities will have to pay this year — a total of $12,274,664 — is up 12.97%, or $1,409,694, from the current year: 

• Gardiner’s proposed share is $4,543,231 — a $506,901 increase or 12.6%

• Pittston’s proposed share is $2,703,474 — a $310,504 increase or $12.98%

• Randolph’s proposed share is $1,178,993 — a $146,372 increase or $14.2% 

• West Gardiner’s proposed share is $3,848,965 — a $445,913 increase or $13.1%


Disch and the board worked to get the budget from a 16% increase to taxpayers down to the current 13%.

Besides the salary increases, other factors driving the district’s overall budget increase include $203,242 for new positions the district talked about adding over the course of the year — an ed tech III librarian at $27,057; a nurse at Pittston-Randolph Consolidated School at $58,892; a nurse at River View Community School for $65,294; and a business office generalist at $52,000.

The cost of necessary expenses for the schools went up as well, such as the cost of natural gas which is up $72,600; transportation for students with special services, which increased by $133,459; the bus lease, which went up by $61,875; and the tuition for special purpose private schools, which is up $245,799. 

Board Chair Becky Fles spoke in support of the budget and how “like everyone,” the district is impacted by inflation, but that it still needs to be “committed” to students.

“Someone did what was best for me when I was a kid,” said Fles. “Kids aren’t cheap, and I don’t want to be cheap. I want to make sure we have what we need in place.” 

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