Early SAD 75 budget could raise taxes 11%

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TOPSHAM — A preliminary version of School Administrative District 75’s 2016 fiscal-year budget calls for a potential increase in local taxes of almost 11 percent.

The $38.7 million budget, now being discussed by school officials, would increase 6.7 percent from current spending. State subsidy could be $14.75 million, an increase of about $165,000, according to Superintendent Brad Smith.

SAD 75’s four towns could be taxed $23.8 million, an increase over this year’s local contribution of 10.84 percent. Topsham’s assessment could be $9.6 million, up 11.2 percent; Harpswell’s, $7.6 million, up 10 percent; Bowdoin’s, $2.9 million, up 12.2 percent; and Bowdoinham’s, $2.9 million, up 10.6 percent.

The draft spending plan is primarily composed of the district’s “maintenance of effort” budget, which maintains all employees and programs, plus some additions that have been requested, Smith said.

Increases to the maintenance of effort budget could total $1.1 million, including an increase in contracted salaries, a nearly $152,000 hike in health and dental costs, and about $129,000 in contracted services.

Requested additions, totaling $1.4 million, include $94,500 to restore allocations to the district’s buildings, $75,000 toward technology infrastructure, about $57,000 for a new custodian, 1.5 new educational technician positions at the Williams-Cone elementary school and Mt. Ararat Middle School, about $144,000 for four new special educational technicians, a $149,000 increase in food services, and $200,000 in architect fees as SAD 75 studies whether to renovate or replace Mt. Ararat High School.

Health insurance costs are unknown; a 5.5 percent increase has been budgeted. Charter school funding is also uncertain, and the district is planning for a $401,000 increase, to reach a total of $1.2 million, the superintendent explained.

Another significant cost hike is an increase in what the state requires school districts to raise in order to be eligible for subsidy, Smith said. That rate increase, from $8.10 per $1,000 of property valuation, to $8.48, adds nearly $482,000 to what SAD 75 must raise.

Public budget forums are to be held at the Harpswell Community School on March 23, Woodside Elementary School in Topsham on March 24, and Bowdoinham Community School on March 31. All begin at 6:30 p.m.

The School Board is scheduled to vote May 7 on whether to approve the budget. The spending plan then goes to two public votes, at a district budget meeting on May 21, and a budget validation referendum on June 9.

Log onto link75.org for a complete budget schedule.

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.