Cumberland-North Yarmouth schools project nearly 4.7% budget increase

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CUMBERLAND — School Administrative District 51 Superintendent Jeff Porter on Monday rolled out a fiscal year 2019 budget that includes a 4.65 percent spending increase.

The budget includes a 9 percent hike in insurance costs and eliminates three jobs.

The School Board also unanimously approved a school calendar for the upcoming school year, but not without hearing concerns from parents about too many early release days for elementary students.

Next year’s proposed $37.6 million budget represents a $1.7 million increase in spending. Offsetting this is a projected $11.3 million in revenue, down 5.6 percent ($668,000) from the current year. The decline is due primarily to a $442,000 loss in state subsidy ($11.3 million down to $10.9 million), which in the last three years has declined by more than $1 million, according to Porter.

Salaries and benefits, slated to increase 3.6 percent, make up $1.3 million of the spending plan’s total $1.7 million increase. The district is budgeting for a 9 percent insurance rate increase.

The district is looking to cut $160,000 through the removal of three positions – a teacher at Greely Middle and High schools ($62,600 each), and an elementary regular educational technician ($35,000). The positions would be eliminated through attrition, so no staff would lose jobs, and specific positions to be cut are still being determined.

Administrative requests totaling about $537,000 are also not to be funded. Those include a K-5 math specialist, Pathways educational technician at Greely High, student services coordinator and writing support staff at the high school, all buses being outfitted with cameras, and summer math enrichment, increased office hours, and summertime Response to Intervention tutoring and algebra preparation at the middle school.

Among proposed staff additions are a second-grade teacher at the Mabel I. Wilson School ($68,000) to address growing class sizes, and a literacy audit consultant ($20,000).

Student instruction makes up 74 percent of the budget, versus the 68 percent statewide average, according to Porter. School and system administration, transportation, facilities and debt service make up the rest.

“It should be noted that if state subsidy figures are less than expected, then additional reductions or a tax increase in the operating budget will likely be needed,” he explained in a March 26 memo to the SAD 51 board.

With revenues subtracted from expenditures, $26.3 million is to be assessed to Cumberland and North Yarmouth. This would result in a $1 increase (5.32 percent) per $1,000 of property valuation in Cumberland, adding $350 annually to a home assessed at $350,000. In North Yarmouth, $1.11 (6.7 percent) would be added to the tax rate, increasing property taxes by $388 on a $350,000 home.

A board budget workshop is to be held at the Greely High library at 6 p.m. Monday, April 2. A public hearing there will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, April 23. The board is to adopt the budget May 7, after which Cumberland-North Yarmouth voters will tackle it twice: at a district budget meeting May 17, and a budget validation referendum June 12.

Early release days

The School Board on Monday unanimously approved the district calendar for 2018-19, which includes 27 early release Wednesdays. But hearing from several parents concerned about that number being too high, the panel opted to review the matter for 2019-20 as part of its strategic planning process.

A regular day runs from 8:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., while a K-5 early release day ends at 12:30 p.m., allowing for professional development time for teachers. Grades 6-12 get out an hour early.

The elementary levels get more time, since their staff spends more time with direct instruction in front of students for most of the day, and lack the opportunity to collaborate on development time, board member Karen Campbell said.

Greely High teacher Grace Leavitt noted the early release days have been in place a long time, and “that time for collaborative work is even more essential now than it was when I started teaching years and years ago. … The type of work that we’ve been doing, especially most recently with (state) standards and criteria, and all of that, that takes collaboration among the staff.”

Without the early release days, “I don’t know where else that work would get done; I fear that it would not get done, and that would be a great disservice to our students,” she added.

Christian Lewis of Cumberland called for early release Wednesdays to be eliminated, saying that the shortened time is “hamstringing our children. I think we need to do better by them, and I would ask the board to strongly consider looking into that and making changes.”

“I do know that (no change) can happen for this coming year, and that’s understandable,” Carla O’Sullivan of Cumberland told the board. But she added that “I hope that we … agree that it’s time to at least review the school calendar moving forward.”

Doing something one way for 40 years does not mean the district has to continue doing so, board member Kevin Desmond said. The feedback from the community “gives us this great opportunity to explore some meaningful alternatives.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Jeff Porter, superintendent of School Administrative District 51, presents the Cumberland-North Yarmouth unit’s fiscal 2019 budget at Greely High School Monday, March 26.

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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.