n-cumbsad51 SAD 51 OKs tuition students, expects 4.2% budget increase

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CUMBERLAND — School Administrative District 51 officials approved policy changes Monday to accept tuition students beginning this fall.
The School Board also heard initial figures to be used in determining next year’s school budget.
The school district, which does not accept non-resident students, proposed the acceptance of tuition students as part of an Alternative Plan to reorganization. The policy change is expected to help bring student population up to the 2,500 students determined most efficient by the Department of Education.
Currently, the district serves about 2,300 students.
Non-resident private tuition students will be accepted by application only, which will be made to an admissions committee composed of members of the school administration and guidance staff. Future additions to the committee could include one parent and one student, according to Superintendent Robert Hasson.
Tuition will be set annually, and has not been determined for next year. Students will only be admitted if space and personnel are available within existing programs. No new classes will be created and no new staff hired to serve non-resident students, Hasson said.
The district also has no obligations to non-resident students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, because a free appropriate public education remains available to them elsewhere. Students who require special education or other accommodations will be accepted provided space is available in the necessary programs.
The school will not provide transportation to tuition students, except where they can access normal bus routes already offered by the district.
In other business, school officials heard initial numbers being considered as the district creates a budget for next year. Finance Committee Chairman Tom Shepard reported that without adding or subtracting programming or staff, except where appropriate based on expected school populations, the district is looking at a 4.2 percent increase to the school budget going into next year.
That increase takes into account:
• No increase in school debt payments, because high school construction debt was restructured after the district was unable to borrow in last fall’s economic climate.
• A 0.5 percent decrease in the energy budget, which reflects a locked-in oil price of $1.92 per gallon that saves $150,000 compared with this year’s budget.
• And a 4.7 percent increase in operating costs, which includes contractual increases.
Shepard said that an initial budget will be given to the School Board in mid-March, with a public hearing planned for April 14. A public referendum has been set for May 26 to approve the budget.

Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or strent@theforecaster.net.