Letter: SAD 51 needs budget increase

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On June 9 and 14 voters in the SAD 51 community will vote on the proposed school budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

Following three years of flat funding, the School Board is recommending a budget increase of 2.93 percent, a modest adjustment to maintain our programs, staff, facilities, and pay for our debt service. When considering how declining enrollment might impact our budget, I recognize that our board has studied and monitored those trends closely. Identification of the projected decline led to the creation of the Sustainability Committee, and the proposed closure of Drowne Road School. Presently, the decline is gradual and next year will mean an overall loss of 45 students, just 2 percent of our total enrollment. Most of those losses are spread throughout the district, making it harder to target specific grades for enrollment related cuts. Also, a small reduction of students does not change the cost of capital expenses like heating and electricity. However, in the middle school, where the enrollment decline has had a greater impact, a teaching position was eliminated with this budget.

As a painful consequence of three years of severe budget restrictions, we have lost 31.5 positions. I am a parent who volunteers in the schools, and I seen first-hand that those losses have made it harder for our outstanding staff to meet the individualized needs of children. This proposed increase is necessary to maintain a high-quality education for our children, something the entire community benefits from.

Marnie Dean