SAD 75 budget passes 1st voter hurdle

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TOPSHAM — In a meeting May 24 that ran a half hour and drew 51 registered voters, the proposed $37.8 million School Administrative District 75 budget passed the first of two public decisions.

The budget, along with a $1.56 million roof bond, go to referendum Tuesday, June 12. Polls are open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. at the Topsham Fairgrounds Exhibition Hall, Cundy’s Harbor Community Building in Harpswell, Elijah Kellogg Church in Harpswell, Old Orr’s Island School House on Orr’s Island, Bowdoin Central School, and Bowdoinham Town Hall.

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The entire May 24 district budget meeting, held in the Mt. Ararat High School Commons, drew just one comment. Ruth Lyons, a Topsham selectwoman, said she disagreed with the planned introduction this fall of a pre-kindergarten program.

“Every year we expand a new program, whether it was forced on you by the state,” she said. “… Every program is important for students, but we have to assess, do we have to do this?”

The pre-K program – not proposed by the Finance Committee to be included in next year’s budget but backed by the SAD 75 Board of Directors – would cost about $163,000 for 32 children.

The district is due to receive $296,000 less in state subsidy for fiscal year 2019. But because SAD 75 is receiving state funding toward pre-K, without that program being included in next year’s budget the district would sustain a greater subsidy loss – nearly $519,000.

The potential of an additional loss with the pre-K program “just is not fair,” Lyons said.

Subtracting revenues such as state subsidy from the proposed budget, nearly $24 million will come from SAD 75 taxpayers. Topsham could pay $10.3 million (up 5.8 percent), Harpswell $7.7 million (down 0.2 percent), Bowdoin $2.9 million (up 2.6 percent), and Bowdoinham $3 million (up 4.1 percent).

Driving the amount of each town’s contribution are the number of students and the state-assessed valuation of property. The valuations are a key factor for next year; Topsham’s have risen, while Harpswell’s have been mostly flat, according to Business Manager Mark Conrad.

An average $204,300 home in Topsham would see a $115 tax bill hike; a $430,000 Harpswell home, a $4 decrease; a $117,600 Bowdoin home, a $40 bump; and a $179,000 Bowdoinham home, an $80 increase.

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

John Lloyd, moderator of the School Administrative District 75 district budget meeting in Topsham May 24, tallies votes among School Board members. They include, from left, David Johnson, Linda Hall, Jane Scease, Kimberly Totten, and Chairwoman Holly Kopp. Superintendent Brad Smith is seated in the middle.

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.