We knew 2011-2012 would be a difficult budget year for school systems, many describing it as a “cliff year” as a result of the cuts in federal stimulus money. School Administrative District 51 recently proposed a 2.93 percent increase for the 2011-2012 school year, after three years of flat funding. While there will be obvious tax consequences as the result of this increase, the School Board has been thoughtful and deliberate, and can’t be accused of reckless spending. The combined forces of the elimination of federal stimulus money and the requisite debt repayment on Greely High School’s renovation contribute significantly to the budget increase.
SAD 51 made dramatic cuts in staff and programming in the 2011-2012 fiscal year to lighten the taxpayer burden. There are only so many cuts a school system can make before the quality of education begins to erode. Some argue we are now educating fewer kids at greater cost. It’s important to look at the source of these costs. Government mandates on teacher/student ratios, assessment practices and Special Education programs provide educational benefits, but also come with a price tag. I appreciate the thoughtful way the School Board worked to balance fixed costs and quality education, while still being mindful of the taxpayer. I encourage the residents of Cumberland and North Yarmouth to support the proposed budget.