Cumberland, North Yarmouth residents discuss SAD 51 costs

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CUMBERLAND — About 70 people weighed in during a School Administrative District 51 budget forum Nov. 18 on cost efficiencies the district could address in framing its fiscal 2011 budget.

“There were lots of ideas about continuing with a quality education for all kids,” Superintendent Bob Hasson said the next day. “We’re still processing the ideas around what to stop funding.”

The audience broke into small groups to discuss two issues: how to create successful students, and funding their vision for SAD 51. Hasson said one of the prompts asked what could be done to be economical and stay on budget, a reflection of the challenges presented to SAD 51 and many other Maine school systems by state education funding shortfalls.

Hasson said participants raised questions about the benefits and necessities of several district programs, such as all-day Kindergarten. They also asked about Greely High School’s International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, which was implemented this year and incorporates an international education for juniors and seniors.

There were questions about whether the current three-year teachers contract could be reopened. Next year is the third year of that contract, Hasson explained, saying that people wondered whether salary increases in the contract could be renegotiated.

There was also discussion about whether schools could be restructured, and whether any of them could be closed, he said. The district’s Sustainability Task Force is looking at all of SAD 51’s schools to determine whether there would be a way to close any of its schools, Hasson said.

That group is charged with reviewing available enrollment and demographic data, as well as current school building uses, policies, costs, grade configuration polices and other pertinent information. From that data the group will develop recommendations for the SAD 51 board and optimize the connection between district assets, expenses and student achievement.

“There was the balance of (people being) very pleased with the results that we’re getting, and also very pleased with the long-term trends around achievement” Hasson said, “but great concern around the fiscal situation that the state is in and the reduction of revenues.”

SAD 51 plans a second budget input forum for January. “That one will be, I think, much more specific around what things to people want to have included in (next year’s) budget,” Hasson said.

The current fiscal 2010 budget is $28 million, a zero percent increase from last year’s amount. The fiscal 2010 tax assessment to Cumberland and North Yarmouth of $15.2 million has increased 2.4 percent in six years, an average of less than half a percent each year. Extra revenue from the secession of Chebeague Island in 2007 was directed back to the communities, Hasson said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or

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.