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SAD 51 sends flat budget to Cumberland, North Yarmouth voters

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SAD 51 sends flat budget to Cumberland, North Yarmouth voters

CUMBERLAND — The School Administrative District 51 Board of Directors approved a flat school budget that is likely to appease some taxpayers' concerns, but at the cost of more than 10 full-time jobs.

If the $28 million budget is approved by voters on May 26, Cumberland faces a property tax increase of 3.4 percent, or 47 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. North Yarmouth would see a mil rate increase of 8.2 percent, or 92 cents.  

The first budget proposed several months ago was a nearly 3 percent increase over this year, and would have meant double-digit tax increases for North Yarmouth citizens.

In order to reach a budget with no increase, the School Department will cut about 11 full-time positions, though they also added one full-time fifth-grade teacher.

Job cuts include:

• Four education technicians.

• Four full-time equivalent teacher positions, one from each North Yarmouth Memorial, Mabel Wilson School, Greely Middle and Greely High schools.

• One bus driver.

• The deans of students at both the middle and high schools.

• Small parts of teacher positions in kindergarten- through 12th-grade art, music and physical education.

The School Board also eliminated the school resource officer – a Cumberland police officer dedicated to the schools – although members said they are dedicated to keeping that position funded. The town is applying for a grant that would maintain the job, and Superintendent Robert Hasson said that if the grant falls through, the school and town will find funds to keep the officer.

Other decreases included lower fuel costs, a change in debt service, shifted payments for computer hardware and eliminating teacher leader positions. Cost increases involve upgrading curriculum materials to support reading and math programs, and the new International Baccalaureate program.

The School Board voted 6-1 on Monday to send the budget to voters. Dan Panici, the only board member who voted against the budget, said it was too low. He supported the previously proposed 1.9 percent increase, which would maintain the deans of students and school resource officer. He was also unhappy about the loss of ed techs.

"Long-term cuts need full discussion to think about long-term effects," Panici said, noting that the last round of cuts was made over only about a week. Panici said that the way the schools reached a zero increase "goes against what we stand for in keeping cuts away from the classroom."

"Zero is admirable," he said. "I wish we could do it."

Board Chairman David Perkins agreed that "bold steps" were taken with expenses.

"I know there's some pain involved," Perkins said. "I know we may need to fix some things. I think ed techs have a very direct impact, but I think we're at a point where we can't afford them."

Board member Jim Bailinson took middle ground, saying that he, too, was "not comfortable" with the flat budget, but that "politically, I don't believe we can pass a budget above zero percent."

Residents will vote on the school budget May 26. Because of the loss of Chebeague Island funds and the impact of the recession, the budget was destined to have an impact on property taxes at a time when taxpayers are already strapped. Keeping that increase low is coming at the cost of good people, Bailinson said, "but we really don't have any other alternative."

Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or strent@theforecaster.net

More stories like this: Cumberland, SAD 51, North Yarmouth, school budget