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TOPSHAM — Voters in the four School Administrative District 75 towns face two decisions this spring: a $37.3 million budget and a $1.56 million bond for district-wide roof replacements.
Next year’s proposed budget – up about $459,000, or 1.2 percent from current spending – goes to a district budget meeting at the Orion Performing Arts Center, 50 Republic Ave., at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 24. The spending plan, along with the roof bond, then goes to a budget validation referendum at district polling places Tuesday, June 12.
The SAD 75 Board of Directors on April 26 unanimously approved the fiscal 2019 budget, with two changes: inclusion of a pre-kindergarten program, and an adjustment for lower-than-expected health insurance costs.
The pre-K program, not proposed by the Finance Committee to be included in next year’s budget, would cost about $163,000 for 32 children, Business Manager Mark Conrad said in an interview April 27.
Half of the students will be housed in a classroom at Williams-Cone Elementary School in Topsham with a teacher and educational technician. The funding includes a contract with Midcoast Maine Community Action to enroll the other children through the Head Start program at Cook’s Corner in Brunswick.
SAD 75 had budgeted a 5 percent health insurance increase, but learned recently that there would be no rate change, Conrad said. The district still is budgeting a 0.9 percent ($87,000) increase to account for employees who change their coverage throughout the year.
The district will see a loss of nearly $1 million in state aid, from $14.8 million this year to $13.84 million next year. In making an “apples to apples” comparison between subsidies for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, Conrad is subtracting the $742,000 vocational center subsidy, reflecting a loss that will be closer to $296,000.
Because SAD 75 will receive state funding toward pre-K, without that program being included in next year’s budget the district would sustain a subsidy loss of nearly $519,000.
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With revenues such as state subsidy subtracted from the proposed budget, nearly $24 million will come from SAD 75 taxpayers. Topsham could pay $10.3 million (up 5.8 percent), Harpswell $7.7 million (down 0.2 percent), Bowdoin $2.9 million (up 2.6 percent), and Bowdoinham $3 million (up 4.1 percent).
The amount of each town’s contribution is driven by the number of students and the state-assessed valuation of property. The valuations are a key factor for next year, Conrad said, explaining that “Topsham’s valuations have increased, whereas Harpswell’s have largely been flat.”
An average $204,300 home in Topsham would see a $115 tax bill hike; a $430,000 Harpswell home, a $4 decrease; a $117,600 Bowdoin home, a $40 bump; and a $179,000 Bowdoinham home, an $80 increase.
If it is approved, the $1.56 million, 10-year, roof improvement bond would be issued next spring. An interest-only payment of $33,000 would follow in fiscal year 2020, with the maximum annual payment of about $190,000 coming in FY 2021, Conrad said in March.
Subsequent annual payments would shrink over the life of the bond.
The entire Bowdoin Central School roof would be replaced (at a cost of nearly $450,000), as would the roof on the 1964 addition, part of the 1959 addition and the gym roof at the Williams-Cone Elementary School (nearly $432,000), along with the roofs on the 1956 building and 1960 and 1987 additions at Harpswell Community School (about $358,000).
Additionally, the roof on the gym and adjacent health rooms and health wing canopy would be replaced at Mt. Ararat Middle School at a cost of $320,000. Structural upgrades to the gym and adjacent health rooms there, as well as to the Williams-Cone gym, are also planned.
The Bowdoin roof is 16 years old, and the others are between 26 and 33, according to Conrad.
The work is not included in the operating budget because state law requires such expenses to be included on a separate ballot article apart from the June budget validation referendum, he noted.
“The voters have a direct opportunity to approve it or not approve it at the ballot box,” Conrad added.