SAD 75 budget proposal officially shrinks by $1.2M

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TOPSHAM — Voters at the School Administrative District 75 budget meeting approved a $36.9 million budget for fiscal 2016, $1.2 million less than the package approved by the School Board May 8.

The difference was due to a revised state funding formula for charter schools that reduces school district expenditures.

Anticipating the possible reduction, School Board members at the May 21 meeting moved to amend relevant warrant articles to reflect the lower costs.

Under state law, students who live in SAD 75 towns and attend charter schools are reported to be attending SAD 75 schools, so the district receives subsidies for those students, Superintendent Brad Smith has said. The district in turn pays a quarterly amount to the various charter schools; that amount is about $801,000 this year, for 74 students.

The district had planned for a $401,000 increase next year, or a total of $1.2 million to cover another 35 students.

The reduction produced a revised budget of $36.9 million, about $700,000 more than the current spending plan. The local share will increase about $568,000, or 2.65 percent.

The budget could mean a $63 annual school tax increase on a typical $182,500 home in Topsham, according to the district. Harpswell could see a $21 increase on a $425,000 home, while Bowdoin and Bowdoinham could experience hikes of $67 and $56, respectively, on a $178,000 home.

The meeting, held at the Orion Performing Arts Center, ran about 50 minutes, drew approximately 60 voters, and elicited few public comments.

Budget additions of $1.3 million include $144,000 for four special educational technicians, $139,000 for food service, and $200,000 in architect fees as SAD 75 studies whether to renovate or replace Mt. Ararat High School.

If a high school project referendum passes, the architect’s fees would be reimbursed by the state, Smith has said.

While the number of special education students has dropped, those youths’ needs are becoming more complex, he has also noted. Out-of-district placements have increased, also raising costs – from about $42,000 in 2010 to $318,000 this year.

Next year’s budget faces a final vote in a June 9 validation referendum.

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.