Adjustment helps trim SAD 51 budget hike to 3.8%

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CUMBERLAND — After rolling out their fiscal year 2019 budget a month ago with an anticipated 9 percent insurance rate hike built in, School Administrative District 51 officials learned recently that the cost actually will not be changing.

The resulting adjustment $450,000, Superintendent Jeff Porter reported Monday during a budget public hearing at Greely High School, helped reduce a proposed $37.6 million budget to a $37.3 million spending plan, or an increase of 3.84 percent.

Budget information can be found at

The insurance savings led Porter to propose reinstating three positions that were scheduled to be cut: a teacher at both Greely Middle and High schools ($62,600 each), and an elementary regular educational technician ($35,000), which added $160,000 back to the budget. He also proposes a new kindergarten teacher at the Mabel I. Wilson School ($62,500), because about 20 more students registered over last year.

A second-grade teacher at the Mabel I. Wilson School ($68,000), also to address growing class sizes, has already been in the proposed budget.

With another $75,000 in savings factored in due to recently announced retirements and salary line adjustments, the net decrease to the budget since its March 26 roll out is about $291,500.

Offsetting spending is a projected $11.3 million in revenue, down 5.6 percent ($668,000) from the current year. The decline is due primarily to a $442,000 loss in state subsidy ($11.3 million down to $10.9 million), which in the last three years has declined by more than $1 million, according to Porter.

With revenues subtracted from expenditures, $26 million would be assessed to Cumberland and North Yarmouth. This would result in an 83-cent increase (4.42 percent) per $1,000 of property valuation in Cumberland, adding $290 annually to a home assessed at $350,000. In North Yarmouth, 94 cents (5.79 percent) would be added to the tax rate, increasing property taxes by $329 on a $350,000 home.

The March 26 budget projected tax increases to homes in Cumberland and North Yarmouth of $350 and $388, respectively.

Bob Knupp was among a handful of people to speak at Monday’s public hearing. The Cumberland resident, who lives in an Eagles Way condominium off U.S. Route 1, said the tax increase from SAD 51 would mean a $373 hike in his bill; $500 if the Cumberland town increase is added as well.

While he acknowledged that SAD 51 teachers work hard and deserve cost-of-living wage adjustments, he said, “I’m retired; I don’t have any COLAs.”

Noting the tax impact to the district’s aging population, Knupp asked the board to use creative thinking in reducing costs.

“Maybe I’m nickeling and diming, but I think you should try to nickel and dime as much as you can to help the senior citizens in this community,” he said.

“I have to admit I’m frustrated,” Rick Doane of Cumberland told the School Board, noting concern over budget increases in past and upcoming years.

“You realize $525,000 in savings off your working budget,” he said of the flat insurance rate and retirement savings, but criticized district officials for proposing to spend much of that savings.

“Something in this process is broken, and I would encourage you to step back and take a look at it, what you’re doing, and ask yourself if we can sustain these dollars coming out of the property tax base,” Doane said. “I don’t believe we can.”

The fiscal year 2012 budget of $28.9 million, a nearly 3 percent increase over the prior year, followed three years of flat budgets of $28 million during the Great Recession. The budget reached $30.4 million for 2013, $31.3 million for 2014, $32.6 million for 2015, $33.8 million for 2016, $35 million for 2017, and $35.9 million for 2018.

Cumberland resident Mary Carbone, an educator whose daughter attends first grade, expressed support for the budget. “We’ve had an amazing experience,” she said, praising the staff and administration. “You can tell when you’re in a community that values education, and it’s nice to see that the School Board supports that.”

“I’m happy to pay the taxes, and I think I’m getting a great deal, quite frankly, when I look around,” Carbone added.

The board is to adopt the budget May 7, after which Cumberland-North Yarmouth voters will tackle it twice: at a district budget meeting May 17, and a budget validation referendum June 12.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Bob Knupp of Cumberland, one of the few to speak during a School Administrative District 51 budget public hearing at Greely High School Monday, asked the School Board to find creative ways to find savings.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.