GARDINER — The Gardiner-area school board has voted 9-3 to approve the district’s proposed $32.4 million budget after cutting several positions to reduce the increase to taxpayers.

The Maine School Administrative District 11 board voted on two versions of the budget at Thursday night’s regular business meeting.

The board did not pass the MSAD 11 Finance Committee’s budget proposal, which would have cut an English and a science teacher at Gardiner Area High School. The board added a full-time science teacher position back into the budget.

The proposed budget represents a 7.6% increase to current spending.

Jeff Hanley of Pittston, Elissa Tracey of Randolph and Sean Focht of West Gardiner voted against the final budget proposal, which is expected to go to taxpayers May 28 at the regional budget meeting.

The district’s original budget proposal would have brought a 38% increase to taxpayers. The board had to cut positions to reduce spending, arriving at a 9.52% increase to taxpayers.


Most of the increases in the MSAD 11 budget are from contractual salary increases and the cost of necessities, such as health insurance and energy, leading the board to cut positions to reduce the effect on taxpayers. 

“Passing along an increase of a mil (each year) is not sustainable. These towns can’t sustain to pass along that increase,” Andrea Disch, the business manager for MSAD 11, said.  

The increase of slightly more than 9.5% to taxpayers for the schools’ portion of the budget is expected to affect taxes on properties valued at $400,000 as follows:

• A $383 increase in Gardiner.

• A $276 increase in Pittston. 

• A $233 increase in Randolph.


• A $336 increase in West Gardiner. 

The 2023-24 budget resulted in a 13% increase for taxpayers. 

Administrators looked to class size when deciding what positions to cut. By policy, class sizes at the school range from 15 to 22 students, depending on the grade. 

Superintendent Patricia Hopkins said enrollment at Gardiner Area High School has declined by 48 students since the 2017-18 school year. 

While class size can influence the areas of the budget that are likely to be cut, Hopkins said cuts at the lower grade levels can have greater impact than cuts at higher grade levels.  

The cuts will bring the English department level with other core-subject staffing. The social studies department has six teachers, while the science department has six teachers, plus one part-time position for labs. 


Hopkins said at the start of the discussion that she was not sure why the board focused on cutting the high school positions and not on cutting a guidance position or a first grade teacher. 

“There has not been one single voiced concern about the reduction of the impact that it’ll have on staff and students,” she said. “To be clear, a reduction of a teacher at the elementary level because of a decline (in enrollment) or not impacts staff and students.

“It diminishes the pool of staff for various responsibilities, including education techs. It results in less time in direct instruction with students and less preparation time.” 

Other positions cut from the proposed budget were a first grade teacher, a school counselor and a special education teacher.  

Requests to add a special education school psychologist, an individualized education program coordinator and a behavior specialist were left out of the budget because the district could not afford them. 

Board Chair Becky Fles said the financial impacts of declining enrollment are not ideal.

We don’t want to see cuts,” Fles said. “These people are our neighbors and community members; however, the facts are we have a declining enrollment and, as that happens, we must respond.”

The annual budget meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on May 28 at the Gardiner Area High School gymnasium, and the budget validation referendum is planned for June 11.

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