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FALMOUTH — The proposed school budget could add 51 cents to the tax rate and represents an increase in spending of just over $2 million, according to information provided to the School Board by Superintendent of Schools Geoff Bruno.
Bruno unveiled his fiscal year 2020 spending plan during a special board workshop March 15. He’s proposing a budget of nearly $39 million, which represents an increase of 5.5 percent.
Bruno said the increased spending will be offset, in part, by an additional $556,000 in state aid to education. However, that’s only a projection based on Gov. Janet Mills’ state budget proposal, which the Legislature is still debating.
About $440,000 of the increase in school spending is due to new positions, Bruno said in a memo to the School Board. The other budget drivers include increases in wage and health insurance costs for school staff.
In addition, Bruno said the School Department had to hire an additional part-time educational technician that was not budgeted for in the current fiscal year.
Overall, he said the proposed budget provides the “resources necessary to meet the diverse needs of all learners, promote character, responsibility and citizenship in our students, strengthen the performance of our evolving learning organization, and provide the infrastructure necessary to excel in a 21st-century global community.”
Of all the new positions being requested, a second principal at the elementary school is the most expensive. Bruno said the cost would be $125,000 in the first year to cover salary and benefits.
The idea, he said, would be to run the school with one K-2 principal and one 3-5 principal, along with two assistant principals, which would also be assigned by grade group.
Bruno said the benefits of this change include the ability to build stronger relationships with students, staff, and families; a renewed focus on the unique needs of each grade grouping; and a more comprehensive approach to staff supervision, evaluation and professional growth.
With its current enrollment of 894 students, Falmouth Elementary is the largest primary school in Maine and it’s more than twice the size of the average elementary school in the state, according to Bruno.
In order to address the increased enrollment at the elementary school, he also wants to hire a new first-grade teacher for $80,000; a new part-time kindergarten literacy specialist for $8,000; and a part-time school nurse for just over $9,000.
In addition, Bruno is recommending that the School Department begin offering a six-week summer kindergarten preparatory program, which he estimates would cost $15,000. The goal would be to work with eight to 15 incoming kindergartners who’ve been identified as needing additional help.
At the middle school, Bruno would like to add a world language teacher for $80,000 and a full-time ed tech to specifically assist with the incoming sixth-grade class. He said this position, at about $35,000, would be key as class sizes at the middle school are approaching 25 students.
At the high school, Bruno said there’s a need for a full-time math teacher, who could also provide additional support in the school’s tutoring center. The increase there would be partially offset by eliminating a part-time ed tech position.
Also at the high school, Bruno said there’s a need to add hours for the school social worker. Under this plan, the social worker would work 30 hours a week, about five more than she does now.
Bruno would also like to add a part-time music teacher at the high school to better support the string ensemble and to provide music theory classes to students.
All the budget documents can be found on the School Department website at www.falmouthschools.org.
The combined municipal and school budgets will be presented to the public at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 27, and a public hearing on the budget will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 3. Both meetings will take place at Town Hall.
Increased enrollment is driving the need for new positions at Falmouth Elementary School. The School Department’s proposed fiscal year 2020 budget is up $2 million.