Cumberland-North Yarmouth school spending could rise 3.6% in fiscal 2016

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CUMBERLAND — School Administrative District 51 Superintendent Jeff Porter last week unveiled a proposed $33.7 million budget for fiscal 2016, an increase of 3.6 percent over current spending.

Meanwhile, Gov. Paul LePage’s state budget proposal includes an approximately $642,000 reduction in state funding for the Cumberland-North Yarmouth district.

That reduction stems from three factors, according to the district: $232,000 from retirement of debt for the Mabel I. Wilson School, a $120,000 reduction in bus subsidy, and $290,000 from declining enrollment and a state mil rate shift.

The budget as currently proposed would raise taxes in Cumberland $69 for each $100,000 in property valuation, or $241 on a $350,000 home. In North Yarmouth, $66 would be added for every $100,000, for an impact of $231 on a $350,000 home.

The draft budget has already undergone a few cuts. SAD 51’s District Leadership Team had presented a list of “unmet needs” for the 2015-2016 school year that totalled $1.1 million in new spending. The revenue drop caused those needs to be shaved to nearly $316,000.

Another $83,000 was cut in the operating budget, and ultimately $888,000 was removed from the initial draft budget, the district reported last week in a press release.

Additions to the spending plan include an increase in Greely High School staffing to support required Response to Intervention program guidelines and increased enrollment; a new elementary math program geared toward better alignment with state standards; technology infrastructure investments; new support for teacher orientation, and added Greely Middle School nursing time.

Also included is the elimination of one elementary teacher position, while two teacher positions are proposed to be moved from the middle school to the high school to address a shift in enrollment.

Porter noted March 19 that while district enrollment has been declining as expected, that drop has been slowing. SAD 51 has nine more students than were projected this year, he added.

“This is a high-performing school district that recognizes that the classroom of today is very different from the classroom of yesterday,” Porter said in the press release. “At a time when students’ needs are rising and state and federal mandates are at an all-time high, we are watching our state subsidy decline. Despite all of this, we have been able to hold down expenses while maintaining optimal learning for our students.”

The School Board will hold a public hearing on the spending plan in the Greely High School library at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 9. The budget will have two votes by the towns: at a Town Meeting-style gathering in the Greely High School gym on May 14, and a budget validation referendum June 9.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 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.