SAD 51 voters approve budget, N. Yarmouth school closure

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CUMBERLAND — School Administrative District 51 voters on Tuesday approved a nearly $31.3 million fiscal 2014 budget, 829-527.

Cumberland voters supported the spending plan 497-301, as did North Yarmouth, 332-226, according to unofficial results. Cumberland also approved continuing the budget validation process for another three years, 551-239, as did North Yarmouth, 404-151.

The closure of North Yarmouth Memorial School also passed, although a majority of voters in the district’s two towns disagreed on that measure, and the borrowing of $2 million to expand and renovate Greely Middle School to accommodate the North Yarmouth fourth- and fifth-graders.

Cumberland voted 559-237 to close the school, while North Yarmouth voted 302-268 against doing so. According to a voters guide posted on SAD 51’s website, only one of the towns had to favor the measure in order for the school to close, as called for by the state. The transition of the students to Greely Middle is expected to happen at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.

Cumberland supported the $2 million expansion, 489-313, while North Yarmouth opposed it, 318-245, for a combined vote in favor of 734-631. A majority within the two towns was needed for the measure to pass.

Operational savings from closing the 36-year-old North Yarmouth building, approved by the School Board last December, are estimated at nearly $562,000.

Renovating Greely Middle School adds debt service of $178,000 a year over two decades, according to Scott Poulin, the district finance director.

The net annual savings to the district is expected to be nearly $384,000.

Poulin has said renovation of the North Yarmouth school could cost about $7 million and create annual debt service payments of $623,000.

The Greely renovation includes extra classroom and cafeteria space. The parking lot would be reconfigured to accommodate fourth- and fifth-grade staff and visitors.

Next year’s spending plan, which reflects a more than 2.8 percent increase over the current year, was first approved at a 45-minute district budget meeting June 6.

Included in the budget is about $422,000 in costs being shifted to the school district from the state to fund employees now covered by the state retirement system. While the state and employees have previously contributed to the funding, Gov. Paul LePage is calling for school districts to pay the state’s share.

Without that cost shift, the district’s budget would increase by only 1.4 percent.

Revenues that offset expenses include $400,000 from the current and previous fiscal years in an undesignated fund balance; about $215,000 in debt from Chebeague Island, which seceded from SAD 51 and Cumberland in 2007; $35,000 in miscellaneous revenue; and $11.3 million in state subsidy.

The remaining $19.2 million to be raised comes from Cumberland and North Yarmouth taxpayers. Cumberland’s assessment could increase 3.7 percent; new value caused that town’s tax increase to be 1.2 percent, or an extra $69 a year for a $300,000 home in that town. 

North Yarmouth’s assessment could increase about 1.4 percent, resulting in an extra $75 in taxes for a $300,000 home.

The budget does not eliminate any jobs.

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.