SAD 75 voters approve $37M budget

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TOPSHAM — School Administrative District 75 voters on Tuesday gave final approval to next year’s $36.9 million budget.

The vote was 454-153. The spending plan passed 140-65 in Topsham, 156-25 in Harpswell, 48-24 in Bowdoin, and 110-39 in Bowdoinham, according to unofficial results.

“We are very appreciative of the approval given by our communities for the validation of the budget,” Superintendent Brad Smith said in an email Tuesday. “We put a budget together that maintained programs and will enable us to continue to provide the quality of education we believe our students need and deserve. We know it is always a difficult decision, and truly appreciate the support given to us.”

The budget secured preliminary approval at a town meeting-style gathering May 21, where voters reduced the package by $1.2 million. The difference stemmed from a revised state funding formula for charter schools that reduces school district expenditures.

Under state law, students living in SAD 75 towns and attending charter schools are reported to be attending SAD 75 schools, so the district receives subsidies for those students, 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 anticipated a $401,000 increase next year, or a total of $1.2 million to cover another 35 students.

But last month’s 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, the district has reported. 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.

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.

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

The number of special education students has dropped, but 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.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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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.