SAD 51 board OKs budget; voters now get 2 chances

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CUMBERLAND — The fiscal 2016 School Administrative District 51 budget, approved 7-1 by the School Board April 27, now goes to two public votes.

The proposed $33.8 million budget is a 3.6 percent increase over current spending.

With school, town and county assessments combined, Cumberland would see a tax increase of $75 for each $100,000 in property valuation, or $262.50 on a $350,000 home. The combined impact in North Yarmouth would be a $53 increase for every $100,000, or an impact of $185.50 on a $350,000 home.

The budget reflects an approximately $642,000 drop in state funding for the district from Gov. Paul LePage’s state budget proposal, stemming from three factors: $232,000 from retirement of debt for the Mabel I. Wilson School, a $120,000 reduction in bus subsidy, and $290,000 from declining enrollment and a state mil rate shift.

Proposed additions in the budget include an increase in Greely High School staffing to support required Response to Intervention program guidelines and increased enrollment; a new elementary math program geared toward better alignment with state standards; technology infrastructure investments; new support for teacher orientation; added Greely Middle School nursing time, and a specialist for students with unique learning needs.

Pete Wilson, the only School Board member to vote against the budget, said in an email April 30 that he did so because it adds positions in the wake of declining enrollment.

Bethany Hanley, a board member who also serves on its Finance Committee, said in an email May 1 that she supports the budget “because it enables us to maintain a modest tax increase as we meet our contractual obligations, address unfunded federal and state mandates, and make modest incremental improvements in key areas such as our technology infrastructure and our curriculum.”

“I can attest,” Hanley added, “that we have engaged in months of collaborative work with our administrators drafting this important document – scrutinizing every line of each cost center to try to uncover cost savings and efficiencies, and tightening those lines to make sure that the budget reflects actual spending. Throughout this important work, finance committee members were always mindful that our decisions have a direct impact on local taxpayers, and also upon the daily lives of the students in our community.”

The spending plan now goes to two votes by the towns: a town meeting-style gathering in the Greely High School gym at 7 p.m. (registration at 6:30 p.m.) Thursday, May 14, and a budget validation referendum on June 9.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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.