SAD 75 board sends $36M budget to district votes

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TOPSHAM — The School Administrative District 75 Board of Directors on May 8 unanimously approved a $36.2 million budget for the next fiscal year.

The fiscal 2015 spending plan, up 4.4 percent from this year, now goes to two public votes: a Town Meeting-style gathering on May 22, and a budget validation referendum on June 10.

If the budget passes both steps, taxpayers in SAD 75’s four towns will pay $21.4 million, a hike of 9.4 percent.

Topsham’s share would be $8.6 million, an increase of 8.63 percent; Harpswell, $7.6 million, up 10.11 percent; Bowdoin, $2.6 million, up 11.28 percent, and Bowdoinham, $2.7 million, up 7.9 percent.

The budget discontinues a reliance on the SAD 75 fund balance, which the district has used to preserve positions and programs, and to try to keep the local contribution constant. But it also pushed the balance too low, SAD 75 Superintendent Brad Smith has said.

While the fiscal 2014 budget used $928,000 from the fund balance, next year’s spending plan proposes using none. That requires the lost revenue to be made up in the local contribution.

Helping to offset the tax burden is $14.6 million the district expects to receive in state subsidy, a nearly 5 percent increase.

Potential budget increases include $480,000 for contracted salary raises, $167,500 for facility projects, and an added expense of $364,000 from local students attending public charter schools, including Harpswell Coastal Academy.

The proposed budget also calls for a counselor/social worker at Harpswell Community School, at a cost of $12,000; a half-day of professional development for support staff, more than $12,000, and teacher/principal evaluation, including training, tools and materials, for $39,000.

Smith said at a budget forum in March that in seeking input from the community, the district heard from parents who want the best teachers available, working in classes of manageable sizes, as well as a comprehensive program that includes technology, special education, the arts, advanced placement and enrichment.

“And what we heard, are people who said, ‘I moved here because of the quality of the schools, or I choose to live here because of the quality of the schools, and the reductions that have been made year after year after year compromise that,'” Smith said. “We heard that, we listened, and that’s why we’re presenting the budget that we are.”

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.