Cape Elizabeth School Board trims jobs, proposed school budget

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The School Board has approved a $24.3 million budget for fiscal year 2017 that includes the elimination of four jobs.

The budget formally adopted by the board on April 12 includes an increase of almost $742,000, or 3.2 percent over the current year. If passed by voters, it would increase taxes by 3.7 percent, or 46 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

The spending plan is smaller than the one originally proposed by Superintendent of Schools Meredith Nadeau in March. More than $181,000 was trimmed after the board learned that health insurance premiums would remain flat next year. Premiums had been expected to increase by 8 percent.

Revenue is projected to decline 10.7 percent, due largely to a reduction in state aid. The Department of Education in January estimated that Cape Elizabeth would receive a state subsidy of $2.43 million, which is a decrease of 29 percent from this year, according to the town website. Factors contributing to the state’s decision include Cape Elizabeth’s rising property values and declining school enrollment.

According to the town website, 25 fewer students are expected to attend Cape Elizabeth schools next year.

That led the School Board to reduce staff.

“Because of shifts in student need, this budget also represents some difficult choices that were made, including the reduction of four positions,” School Board member Jo Morrissey said.

Staff costs and benefits make up the largest part of the increase – 82 percent – due to raises in staff salaries of between 2 and 2.5 percent.

The Town Council Finance Committee, made up of the entire Town Council, will review the budget April 26 and schedule a public hearing  in May. The school budget will then go to referendum on June 14.

On April 12, the School Board also approved the school calendar, which includes five early release days at Pond Cove Elementary School. The board in February delayed approving the calendar because there was concern about having seven early dismissal days.

The current school year has five early release days at the elementary school that are used for professional development time for teachers. Board members and some parents were concerned about interrupting learning by adding two more.

The general school calendar for all three schools has three early release days, plus the additional five at the elementary school. The elementary school will be released at 1:30 p.m. instead of 3:05 p.m., which the board narrowly approved 4-3.

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.