Cumberland-North Yarmouth board adopts $38.4M school budget

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CUMBERLAND — The School Administrative District 51 Board of Directors on Monday unanimously adopted a $38.4 million budget for fiscal year 2020.

The spending plan, up 2.84%, would have no impact on Cumberland and North Yarmouth tax rates. It now goes to two public votes: a district budget meeting Thursday, May 23, and a budget validation referendum June 11.

The budget as presented by school officials late last month was expected to increase 2.66%. But a hike in anticipated kindergarten enrollment – from around 130 four years ago and numbering in the 160s now – prompted the School Board Finance Committee to recommend adding a new teacher for that grade, at a cost of about $67,000, including benefits.

A revenue jump in state aid to education has largely offset $1.06 million in increased expenses. The district expects to receive $11.8 million in state aid to education – a $961,000 increase over fiscal year 2019, and the most SAD 51 has received since 2017. The subsidy still depends on legislative approval.

Projected district revenues, including the state subsidy, total $12.1 million, an increase of 6.88%.

When those revenues are subtracted from the total budget, $26.3 million remains to be assessed to the two towns. Cumberland’s share would be just less than $19 million, while North Yarmouth’s would be about $7.5 million.

Although the local share is up 1.09%, hikes in revenues and property valuations in the two towns offset that increase, resulting in no impact to either town’s tax rate.

Regular instruction, which consumes the largest portion of spending, totals $17.3 million, a 3.62% increase. Special education, totaling $6.9 million, is up 1.71%. Debt service is $2.8 million, a 3.77% hike, due to payments for the new Greely Center for the Arts.

“This is the peak of debt” for that building, “so there was a lot of conversation about what that was going to look like,” School Board member Mike Brown noted.

On top of that, SAD 51 is adding a $265,000 pre-kindergarten program, he added, “so to be able to accomplish those two things without impacting the tax base, I think is really noteworthy.”

No community members weighed in on the budget either at Monday’s meeting or at an April 22 public hearing on the matter.

Superintendent Jeff Porter at the earlier meeting compared the SAD 51 budget and tax impacts with similar districts in the area. Falmouth is looking at a 5.5% spending increase and 4.04% tax hike, he said. For Yarmouth, the numbers are 8% and 4.3%, respectively, and for Cape Elizabeth, 7.77% and 7%.

Alex Lear can be reached at 780-9085 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.