SAD 51 board OKs school budget with 5.3% increase

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CUMBERLAND — The School Administrative District 51 Board of Directors approved a fiscal 2013 budget Monday that reflects a 5.3 percent increase from the current year.

The Cumberland-North Yarmouth district spending plan, which now goes to two public votes, passed 6-2.

If approved, the budget could cause a tax rate increase in Cumberland of 50 cents per $1,000 of property valuation, a climb of 3.1 percent. The increase would be about $150 a year on a home valued at $300,000.

North Yarmouth could see a tax rate increase of between 94 and 98 cents, or about about 7.1 percent, pending final valuations. The owner of a $300,000 home there could experience an annual increase in school taxes of between $282 and $294.

SAD 51 Finance Director Scott Poulin has noted that as a percentage of the overall (state-equalized) valuation of the two communities, North Yarmouth’s increased slightly, shifting about $130,000 to that town. That town’s percentage of the total combined valuation has increased this year from 28.7 percent to 29.4 percent.

The recent growth of Cumberland’s tax base is another key factor behind the sharing of costs between the two towns.

The budget could rise 5.3 percent, from $28.9 million to $30.4 million. The fiscal 2012 budget, a nearly 3 percent increase over the previous year, followed three years of flat budgets of $28 million.

Bill Dunnett, who voted with fellow School Board member Bob Vail against the budget, said in an e-mail Tuesday that if the spending plan passes as proposed, “spending will have increased by almost $2.3 million over two years when our student population has declined.”

Dunnett said the district faces a revenue shortfall of at least $1 million for fiscal 2014, before any new contractual obligations are considered.

“Projections continue to show declining school enrollments,” he said. “There is no real expectation of significant additional funding from state or federal sources. Basic economics would indicate this trend is not sustainable. I believe the taxpayers should have an understanding of how the district intends on maintaining a balance of high academic performance and affordability to the community.”

Vail said Tuesday that “the pot’s empty. We’ve got to do things differently.” He advocated pooling resources between communities to increase cost efficiencies.

Cumberland and North Yarmouth residents will vote twice on next year’s spending plan, first at a town meeting-style gathering at Greely High School in Cumberland at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 7. A budget validation referendum follows on Tuesday, June 12.

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.