District meeting OKs SAD 75 budget

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TOPSHAM —  The School Administrative District 75 budget for fiscal 2014 passed its first public vote last week.

Superintendent of Schools Brad Smith on Wednesday said all of the school budget articles were approved as presented at the SAD 75 district budget meeting on May 23. About 50 residents from the district’s four communities attended.

The $34.7 million budget, representing a 4.4 percent increase from this year, will now head to a June 11 referendum, where voters in Topsham, Harpswell, Bowdoin and Bowdoinham will be asked for final approval.

The June 11 ballot will also ask voters whether they want to continue the budget validation referendum process for another three years.

If the budget is passed, the local contribution from SAD 75’s four communities will increase 4.1 percent, to $19.6 million.

Topsham’s tax commitment will increase 5.2 percent, to $7.9 million; Harpswell’s, 3.6 percent, to $6.9 million; Bowdoin’s, 5.5 percent, to $2.3 million, and Bowdoinham’s, 0.9 percent, to $2.5 million.

Smith attributed the budget hike, in part, to $242,000 in additional costs for health insurance; increased costs for special education; the addition of one librarian, and the restoration of a school resource officer, who will split duties between Mt. Ararat High School and Mt. Ararat Middle School.

The budget also factors in a potential cost of $492,000 for Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal to shift state teacher retirement costs to local districts for next year, Smith said.

Smith said the budget projects losing about $359,000 from local students who plan to attend three public charter schools in the area, including Harpswell Coastal Academy, which is scheduled to open this fall.

The budget proposes to change several positions from full- to part-time, including positions for a physical education teacher, art teacher, Spanish teacher and school heath coordinator.

In addition, two retiring teachers will not be replaced. One of them, a high school English teacher, will be replaced by an existing employee, Smith said.

The budget also proposes the discontinuation of the Chinese language program, in part due to its declining enrollment. Smith said the School Department will continue to support students enrolled in the program for the next two years.

Polls for the June 11 referendum will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Topsham residents vote at the Topsham Fair Exhibition Hall on Route 196; Harpswell mainland residents at Merriconeag Grange Hall on 529 Harpswell Road; Great Island residents at Cundy’s Harbor Community Building on Cundy’s Harbor Road; Bailey Island and Orr’s Island residents at Orr’s Island Schoolhouse, 1594 Harpswell Islands Road.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.