SAD 75 budget could rise 2% in FY '19

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TOPSHAM — Next year’s School Administrative District 75 budget could increase 1.95 percent over current spending, according to a draft unveiled Monday.

Superintendent Brad Smith’s recommended $38 million budget is subject to change in the weeks ahead, as it is vetted by the Finance Committee and goes to three public forums later this month.

The fiscal 2019 proposed number reflects a change in how the state funds vocational centers. In fiscal year 2018, SAD 75 received nearly $742,000 in subsidy toward students that attend the Region 10 Career and Technical Center.

The state is altering how it funds those centers next year so that the subsidy, “which used to flow through our books as both a revenue and expense, will now go directly to Region 10,” Finance Director Mark Conrad said last month.

SAD 75 is projected to experience a nearly $1 million loss in subsidy, from $14.8 million for this year, to $13.84 million next year. In making an “apples to apples” comparison between subsidies for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, Conrad is subtracting the $742,000 vocational center subsidy, for a loss closer to roughly $250,000.

“In essence, our assessment from Region 10 on the expense side should also go down that much,” Conrad explained.

The budget proposes $520,000 in new spending, which includes $163,000 to establish a preschool program; $108,000 to fund new business and human resources software; nearly $68,000 toward the lease/purchase of four additional buses; about $67,000 to hire a new teacher at the Williams-Cone Elementary School; nearly $42,000 to maintain a school-based health clinic; and nearly $39,000 to hire an additional English Language Development person.

Helping to offset the new costs are about $256,000 in proposed reductions, such as eliminating a special education center teaching position that is currently vacant (about $76,000), eliminating a special education high school position through attrition (about $67,000) – both due to a decrease in caseload – and eliminating an as-yet-undetermined teaching position ($65,000).

The district plans to increase its out-of-district special education line by $65,000, but would meanwhile save $112,000 in staff turnover savings, thanks to retirements and resignations of longtime employees.

With revenues such as state subsidy subtracted from the proposed budget, $24.16 million is left to come from taxpayers in SAD 75’s four towns. Of this, Topsham could pay nearly $10.3 million (up 6.6 percent), Harpswell $7.8 million (up 0.8 percent), Bowdoin $2.9 million (up 3.5 percent), and Bowdoinham $3.1 million (up 4.9 percent).

Conrad noted that those figures are estimates and could increase 2 percent since the state has yet to provide a final subsidy estimate.

Public budget forums are scheduled at Harpswell Community School on Monday, March 26; Woodside Elementary School on Tuesday, March 27; and Bowdoin Central School on Thursday, March 29.

The School Board is due April 26 to approve the budget, which then goes to district voters in two separate decisions on May 24 and June 12.

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

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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.