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School districts benefit from proposed increase in state subsidy

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School districts benefit from proposed increase in state subsidy

School systems in Portland's northern suburbs would lose less school funding in fiscal 2011 after Gov. John Baldacci last week proposed adding $20 million to general purpose aid for education.

School Administrative District 51 had expected to receive $10.88 million in funding, a loss of more than $1 million from the current fiscal year. But the Cumberland-North Yarmouth district now may receive $11.14 million, a loss of nearly $800,000.

SAD 51 Superintendent Robert Hasson said March 4 that “we’re just processing the news from yesterday, and making sure that we understand it, and we’ll be deciding on how that will be used.”

Falmouth would see an increase in projected subsidy from $5.48 million to $5.82 million, narrowing its loss from fiscal 2010 to $556,000 from nearly $900,000.

“This moving target has been rather a challenge for us,” Falmouth Superintendent Barbara Powers said last week.

She noted, also, that the district will still lose the National Board certification stipend the state has been offering its teachers, which adds another $78,000 in reductions.

Powers said Falmouth and several other districts had offered incentives before the state participated. “Now with (the state) withdrawing it," she said, "it puts that onus back on us.”

In Yarmouth, the projected subsidy has grown from $1.66 million to $1.93 million, reflecting a change in loss from $1.08 million to $809,000.

Superintendent Judith Paolucci said the School Board has already voted on its no-growth fiscal 2011 budget of $19.5 million, which will ultimately go to voters for approval.

“The burden for supporting a school system is going more on the local taxpayer and less from the state,” Paolucci said; thanks to the decreased loss, though, that impact should not be as great.

Chebeague Island’s subsidy projection for fiscal 2011 grew from $153,000 last month to $157,000 this month, reducing the shortfall from $14,000 to $11,000.

A few weeks ago, preliminary reports from the state showed Regional School Unit 5 as one of the few districts to receive an increase in state funding from last year, a number the Freeport-Pownal-Durham superintendent, Shannon Welsh, called misleading.

The initial estimate of a $138,000 funding increase was incorrect, Welsh said, because of construction costs associated with the $23.7 million elementary school in Durham and $1.04 million in debt. When state aid from last year – $4.9 million – is compared to this year's initial funding estimation of $5.1 million, it appeared as if the district received $138,000 from the state.

But, Welsh said, as RSU 5 pays the $1.04 million in debt for the school, the state will refund the money to the project, not to the cost of education. It is not money going to teacher salaries, heating costs, or classroom expenses and programs.

When the $1.04 million is subtracted from $5.1 million in estimated aid, RSU 5 is left with $4.1 million to use toward education and programs, a $900,000 reduction in state aid to education, Welsh said.

With the most recent state data, Welsh said the district will see a $159,000 increase in funding.

"This money will help add positions we thought we had to remove," Welsh said. "Now we can add back in support staff hours."

Welsh said the district still faces a reduction of $740,000 from what it received last year, but said the news from the state was encouraging.

The RSU 5 Board of Directors started the public budget process with workshop sessions Tuesday, March 9, and Wednesday, March 10. Welsh said the board is expected to continue working to adopt a budget by mid-May.

Amy Anderson contributed to this story. Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.