SAD 75 budget under pressure from contracts, charter schools

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TOPSHAM — Contractual salary increases, a potential rise in health insurance costs and the impact of charter schools are among factors that could influence the next School Administrative District 75 budget.

The district’s spending plan, including adult education, decreased from $34.8 million in fiscal 2011 to $33.4 million two years later, and then rose to the $36.2 million for fiscal 2015 that voters approved last spring, according to a Jan. 23 budget presentation shared by Superintendent Brad Smith.

The presentation did not include a potential fiscal 2016 total budget. A review of the complete first draft budget will be held at the Finance Committee meeting on Monday, March 2, to be held in Room 201 of Mt. Ararat High School at 6 p.m.

While the fiscal 2014 budget used $928,000 from the fund balance, the current spending plan uses of none. That required the lost revenue to be made up in the local contribution.

Enrollment has dropped from more than 2,900 students in 2008 to fewer than 2,500 this year, and is projected to fall to about 2,300 by 2019, according to the presentation. Kindergarten is projected to have fewer than 190 students, while just over 200 are expected to graduate from Mt. Ararat High School.

Salaries have risen from $20.7 million in fiscal 2011 to the current $20.9 million, while health insurance costs have grown from $4.3 million in fiscal 2011 to the current $5.6 million, according to the district.

Health insurance costs in the fiscal 2016 spending plan could rise $310,000, or 5.5 percent. Contractual salary increases amount to $610,000, and charter schools could cost the district another $410,000, for local students attending public charter schools, including Harpswell Coastal Academy.

The district has 68 students, in grades six through 12, who attend charter schools, Smith said Wednesday.

Although special education enrollment has also declined by 61 students since 2011, and staff level has been reduced by six, costs are still up $846,000, which reflects increased student needs, according to the district.

Public budget forums will be held at the Harpswell Community School on March 23, Woodside Elementary School in Topsham on March 24, and Bowdoinham Community School on March 31. All begin at 6:30 p.m.

The School Board is scheduled to approve the fiscal 2016 budget May 7. The spending plan will then go to two public votes, at a district budget meeting May 21, and a budget validation referendum June 9.

Log onto for a complete budget schedule.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or [email protected]. 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.