SAD 75 towns could see school taxes rise 2.6%

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TOPSHAM — The overall local contribution in School Administrative District 75 could increase 2.63 percent in fiscal 2014, according to early budget projections.

The $33.4 million fiscal 2013 spending plan approved by voters last June could rise to $34.35 million. Of that amount, $19.3 million could come from local taxes, an increase of nearly $500,000.

Topsham could be assessed $7.8 million, an increase of about $293,000; Harpswell, $6.8 million, a nearly $127,000 hike; and Bowdoin, $2.3 million, a rise of about $86,000. Bowdoinham could experience the only decline, nearly $11,000, to $2.4 million.

SAD 75 expected to receive $13.3 million in subsidy from the state for fiscal 2013, but ended up getting $13.15 million. The district is projected to receive $13.8 million next year, although it also expects to shoulder a new burden of nearly $500,000 thanks to Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed shift in teacher retirement funding.

While the state and employees now contribute to that funding, LePage is calling for school districts to pick up about half the state’s share, according to Superintendent of Schools Brad Smith.

Additions in next year’s spending plan could include a new librarian, as well as the restoration of a school resource officer, who would serve mainly at Mt. Ararat High School and as needed at Mt. Ararat Middle School. About $260,000 could be added in special education funding to cover potential out-of-district placements, transportation and additional educational technician support.

SAD 75 plans to replace six out of nine retiring teachers. Smith said hiring younger teachers who are at a lower pay scale could save about $96,000, and not replacing the other three teachers could save about $163,000.

The district is also expecting to cut half the time of both a physical education teacher and an art teacher, both at the high school, as well as one world language position between the high and middle schools. It is also proposing elimination of its Chinese language program. An as-yet-undetermined number of educational technicians who support libraries and technology could also be cut.

A public budget forum will be held at the Harpswell Community School on March 26, followed by forums at Woodside Elementary School in Topsham on April 2 and Bowdoinham Community School on April 4. All will start at 6:30 p.m.

Formal School Board budget approval is planned for the panel’s April 25 meeting. The spending plan will then have two public votes: at a May 23 district budget meeting, and a June 11 budget validation referendum.

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.