Cumberland-North Yarmouth schools find funds for 'pathways specialist'

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CUMBERLAND — With health insurance costs coming in lower than initially budgeted, School Administrative District 51 is planning to use the savings to hire a specialist for students with unique learning needs.

The Cumberland-North Yarmouth district had expected an estimated 9 percent increase in health insurance costs, but has learned the hike will be a little less than 5 percent, Superintendent Jeff Porter said April 15.

The savings would more than cover the addition to the fiscal 2016 budget of a so-called pathways specialist, who would work with selected students in grades seven through 12.

The position, at a projected cost of $75,000 including benefits, would “expand pathways for students to demonstrate proficiency in state standards,” Porter said.

The position had been included in $1.1 million of “unmet needs” for the 2015-2016 school year, presented by SAD 51’s District Leadership Team. A $642,000 drop in state funding caused proposed spending for those needs to be reduced to nearly $316,000.

Next year’s proposed $33.8 million budget reflects an increase of 3.6 percent over current spending. With school, town and county assessments combined, Cumberland would see a tax increase of $75 for each $100,000 in property valuation, or $262.50 on a $350,000 home. The combined impact in North Yarmouth would cause a $53 increase for every $100,000, for an impact of $185.50 on a $350,000 home.

Gov. Paul LePage’s state budget proposal includes an approximately $642,000 reduction in state funding for the district, stemming from three factors: $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 School Board will decide whether to approve the budget Monday, April 27, in a 7 p.m. meeting at Greely High School. The spending plan will then undergo 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 Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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.