Cape Elizabeth school budget could rise 2.6%

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The school superintendent’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016 includes an increase of just over $600,000, or 2.6 percent.

Superintendent Meredith Nadeau on Wednesday presented a projected total budget of more than $23.8 million to the School Board.

She said the budget will have an impact on taxpayers of a 1.5 percent property-tax increase.

She said savings will come from reducing the number of teachers. Nadeau said the district expects a 2.8 percent enrollment decline, so staff will have to be cut: Cape Elizabeth Middle School and Pond Cove Elementary School will each lose one teacher through attrition.

Nadeau said the district will also lose one special education teacher position and one educational technician position, but that neither of these positions are currently filled.

Nadeau, who addressed the board via webcam, frequently mentioned using next year’s budget to bring the school district into the 21st century.

One reason for the budget increase will be a new preschool program to be implemented at Cape Elizabeth Community Services. More information was not provided about the program at Wednesday’s meeting; additional meetings providing more detail will take place throughout March.

Much of the budget increase will come from making the district more “innovative” and modern, Nadeau said, including $30,000 for “innovation” support.

A portion of the budget will be used to replace outdated technology. Nadeau said teachers at Pond Cove Elementary School need new computers because the existing ones are outdated and run too slowly. She also some of the iPads provided to students have to be replaced.

Nadeau said the school district’s website will be updated, along with the phone system at the high school.

Several capital improvement projects also contribute to the budget hike. The Town Council in December approved $1.75 million in bonds to fund the projects, which include roof repairs and heating and electrical repairs.

Another increase in the budget is for the high school’s robotics team. Nadeau said because the team has been doing so well, she’d like to incorporate more money into the budget so the team can travel to more tournaments.

Other increases will fund new positions. The School Department, in partnership with the town, is hiring a human resources coordinator. The district is also changing the part-time position of a volunteer coordinator to a full-time volunteer/extended learning opportunity coordinator.

Nadeau said before more detailed discussions of the budget can take place, the overview must be fully reviewed by stakeholders and School Board members.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.