SAD 51 voters to get 1st crack at $32.6M budget

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CUMBERLAND — A $32.6 million budget for fiscal 2015, up 4.3 percent from current spending, goes before School Administrative District 51 residents Thursday, June 5, in the first of two votes.

The spending plan, approved, 6-3, by the SAD 51 Board of Directors earlier this month, will have a second vote at a budget validation referendum June 10.

About $20.1 million of the proposed fiscal 2015 budget would come from taxes, with $14.3 million to be paid by Cumberland, and $5.9 million by North Yarmouth, Finance Director Scott Poulin has said.

Cumberland’s tax rate could rise about 2 percent, or 33 cents per $1,000 of property valuation. North Yarmouth’s hike could be about 3.5 percent, or 59 cents per $1,000.

While the budget as proposed in March called for a 4.22 percent increase, health insurance costs ended up being about $116,000 higher than expected, which raised that increase to 4.59 percent.

Subsequent budget changes included an additional $66,000 for a first-grade teacher, due to enrollment increases. But the district also found about $162,000 in reductions, including about $87,000 in salary adjustments from teacher resignations and retirements.

SAD 51 also received nearly $39,000 in additional state subsidy. The budget hike was ultimately shaved from 4.59 percent to 4.3 percent.

Board members Pete Wilson, Jim Moulton and Bob Vail voted against the proposed budget May 5.

Wilson expressed confidence in interim Superintendent Sally Loughlin and Poulin, but noted that while it might seem arbitrary to argue for the initial budget proposal – about $25,000 less than what the board approved Monday – “you have to (stop spending more money) someplace.”

Vail noted that “if you don’t make any attempts to change how you do business, then you just accept the fact that (the) health-care cost is $338,000, and next year it could be another $338,000. We need to change our models, how we accept cost.”

On the other hand, member Bethany Hanley praised the Finance Committee’s thoroughness in examining the budget, as well as staff members who accepted smaller pay increases in order to help offset other rising expenses.

“We’ve … whittled things down to where we could,” member Martha Leggat said, “so it doesn’t feel advantageous … to whittle down more at this point.”

The June 5 district budget vote will take place at the Greely High School gym at 7 p.m.

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.