SAD 75 spending could rise nearly 5%

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TOPSHAM — The fiscal 2015 School Administrative District 75 budget could reach $36.3 million, an increase of 4.7 percent, according to first-draft figures.

Of that amount, $21.5 million, a hike of 9.7 percent, would come from taxpayers. The $1.9 million increase would be spread across SAD 75’s four towns: about $694,000 in Topsham, about $736,000 in Harpswell, nearly $270,000 in Bowdoin and about $199,000 in Bowdoinham.

Potential increases in the spending plan include $480,000 in contracted salary raises, $422,000 in health insurance, $200,000 toward facility projects, and an added expense of $400,000 from local students attending public charter schools in the area, including Harpswell Coastal Academy.

The budget discontinues a reliance on the district’s fund balance, which has been used to preserve positions and programs and to try to keep the local contribution level. But it also dropped the balance to “an unacceptable level,” according to a budget presentation by Superintendent Brad Smith.

“We are doing more with less, and continuing that direction (will) further compromise our system,” according to Smith.

Reductions in the spending plan include $50,000 in anticipated savings from retiring employees and new ones. The budget also reflects the loss of two teaching jobs, and does not include extra funding for the Response to Intervention program, which provides support for students who are not achieving standards and grade-level expectations.

The proposed spending plan calls for additions including a counselor/social worker at Harpswell Community School, costing $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.

Three public budget forums are planned in the coming weeks, all at 6:30 p.m.: at Harpswell Community School, Monday, March 24; Williams-Cone Elementary School in Topsham, Tuesday, March 25; and Bowdoin Central School, Tuesday, April 1.

The SAD 75 Board of Directors is due to formally approve the fiscal 2015 spending plan May 8, with district-wide approval to come in two steps: a Town Meeting-style gathering on May 22, and a budget validation referendum on June 10.

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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.