Board OKs 4.3% budget hike for Cumberland-North Yarmouth schools

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CUMBERLAND — School Administrative District 51 directors on Monday approved a $32.6 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The spending plan, an increase of 4.3 percent over the current year, now goes to two votes by district residents – at a town meeting-style gathering June 5, and then at a budget validation referendum June 10.

About $20.1 million of the proposed fiscal 2015 budget will come from taxes, with $14.3 million to be paid by Cumberland, and $5.9 million by North Yarmouth, according to Finance Director Scott Poulin.

Cumberland’s tax rate could increase about 2 percent, or 33 cents per $1,000 of property valuation. North Yarmouth’s increase could be about 3.5 percent, or 59 cents per $1,000.

While the budget as proposed in March called for a 4.22 percent increase, health insurance costs ended up being about $116,000 higher than expected, raising that hike to 4.59 percent.

Subsequent budget changes included the approximately $66,000 additional cost for a first-grade teacher, due to enrollment increases. But the district also found about $162,000 in reductions, including about $87,000 in salary adjustments from teacher resignations and retirements.

The district also received nearly $39,000 in additional state subsidy.

“The goal has been to keep any impact as far from students in the classroom as possible,” said interim Superintendent Sally Loughlin, who is also SAD 51’s director of curriculum, assessment, instruction and professional development. “… This is the best possible budget that I believe I can bring forward for you. I’m proud of the extra work we did to continue to honor the impact on the citizens.”

Ultimately the budget hike was shaved from 4.59 percent to 4.3 percent. The School Board vote was 6-3.

Board member Pete Wilson, who voted with Jim Moulton and Bob Vail against the spending plan, expressed confidence in Loughlin and Poulin, but noted that while it might seem arbitrary to argue for the initial budget proposal – about $25,000 less than what the board approved Monday – “you have to (stop spending more money) someplace.”

“If you don’t make any attempts to change how you do business, then you just accept the fact that (the) health-care cost is $338,000, and next year it could be another $338,000,” Vail said. “We need to change our models, how we accept cost.”

Board member Bethany Hanley praised the Finance Committee’s thoroughness in examining the budget, as well as staff members who accepted smaller pay increases in order to help offset other rising expenses.

“We’ve … whittled things down to where we could,” member Martha Leggat said, “so it doesn’t feel advantageous … to whittle down more at this point.”

She added that she has confidence in the vision of Loughlin and other administrators.

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

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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.