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Cape Elizabeth School Board heads toward approving budget

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Cape Elizabeth School Board heads toward approving budget

CAPE ELIZABETH — After five workshops and a public meeting, the School Board finalized adjustments to its proposed budget on Monday, April 5.

Using the midpoint budget as a stepping point, the board restored a few programs and positions that were slated to be cut, and reduced a few suggested programs to create a budget that is expected to be adopted Tuesday, April 13.

The budget workshops have given board members the opportunity to direct Superintendent of Schools Alan Hawkins to make changes to the bottom line. The changes have been based on public concern, student support and educational value. The total budget and its impact on property taxes won't be known until Hawkins compiles the board's suggestions and presents the budget next week.

Among some of the more volatile proposed cuts were two secretarial positions and a 1/10-time theater teaching position. The board heard an outcry of support from students and parents March 31 for high school attendance secretary Joan Moriarty and nurse assistant Barbara Cummings. Students and parents involved in the theater and Mock Trial programs also spoke in favor of restoring proposed cuts.

Since the board directed Hawkins to create three budgets this year, it had to work through each one and decide how to protect academics, taxpayers and staff.

A zero percent tax increase option would have cut programs and services and potentially required the loss of 13 teachers. A midpoint budget would include expense reductions and a tax increase, and the loss of about seven teachers. The maintenance budget would have retained the current level of programming, but required a tax increase of nearly 5 percent. About two teaching positions would have been lost under this scenario.

One suggestion supported by the board is to increase the cost of parking permits at the high school to $50. Parking permits are currently $20.

Chairwoman Rebecca Millett said if police are used to patrol the lots and issue tickets, a change would have to be made in the town's traffic and parking ordinance. She said any revenue raised from permits would go to the schools, and any money raised by ticketing would go to the town.

Other adjustments include retaining $400,000 of the nearly $542,000 in contingency, and using the remaining $142,000 as a way to offset items put back into the budget. The board also agreed to set aside $10,000 for an engineering study to determine the need for high school boiler repair or replacement.

Alterations to the budget include returning a literacy and math teacher in the Achievement Center, while an executive skills half-time teacher was removed. At Pond Cove Elementary School, a full-time librarian and half-time education technician in the media center were restored to the budget.

And board members agreed that if the Maine Bar Association funds the Mock Trail program, the board would support funding the $3,000 needed for a stipend and supplies.

Millett also reminded the board of the offer from teachers to work a day without pay, which would save about $20,000. This money, she said, could be put back into the budget from the salaries line to absorb a few more additions to the budget.

The board meets April 13 at 7 p.m. in Town Hall to review their budget alterations and adopt a final budget.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net