SAD 75 voters approve $34.7M budget

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TOPSHAM — A School Administrative District 75 budget for next year that proposes a 4.4 percent hike to $34.7 million, resulting in a 4.1 percent tax increase, earned second and final approval in Tuesday’s budget validation referendum.

The budget passed 575-162. It was approved in Topsham, 162-62; Harpswell, 192-41; Bowdoin, 66-19; and Bowdoinham, 155-40.

SAD 75 residents also voted 491-236 to continue the budget validation referendum process for another three years. Topsham voted 145-76 in favor of doing so, as did Harpswell, 154-76; Bowdoin, 55-29; and Bowdoinham, 137-55.

Residents of the four-community district had supported the spending plan May 23 at a district budget meeting.

The local contribution from SAD 75’s communities will increase 4.1 percent, to $19.6 million.

Topsham’s taxes will increase 5.2 percent, to $7.9 million; Harpswell’s, 3.6 percent, to $6.9 million; Bowdoin’s, 5.5 percent, to $2.3 million, and Bowdoinham’s, 0.9 percent, to $2.5 million.

Additions in next year’s spending plan include a new librarian, and restoration of a school resource officer, who would serve mainly at Mt. Ararat High School and as needed at the middle school.

Budget challenges and declining enrollment in Chinese language classes are factors behind the elimination of that program in next year’s budget.

Although SAD 75 expected to get $13.3 million in subsidy from the state for fiscal 2013, the district ended up receiving $13.15 million. It is projected to receive $13.9 million in fiscal 2014, but also expects to shoulder most of a new burden of nearly $500,000, as a result of 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.

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.