SCARBOROUGH — The School Board decided to postpone hiring a high school improvement strategist in an attempt to get voters to approve a school budget next month.
Removing the $50,000 expense from the proposed budget on Aug. 17 reduces the spending plan to $47.1 million. It requires a local contribution of $42.2 million – a 6.7 percent increase over the fiscal 2017 budget, due mainly to the loss of about $1.4 million in state subsidy.
The tax increase for homeowners has been estimated at 2.91 percent in the overall tax bill, which also includes municipal and county taxes. Property valuations will determine the final tax rate.
The Town Council on Aug. 16 approved a third school budget proposal for fiscal 2018, pending the $50,000 reduction, after voters rejected two previous budgets.
On June 13, 57 percent of voters opposed a proposed $47.4 million budget. They rejected a $47.1 million school budget, 1,930 to 1,847, in the second budget referendum on July 25.
Superintendent of Schools Julie Kukenberger last week said an improvement strategist would have been tasked with making learning and instructional improvements at the high school, including working with proficiency-based education. The staff member would have analyzed data to help determine what changes would be beneficial to students.
Kukenberger said $75,000 was budgeted for the position, but officials recently learned that state grants to help fund proficiency-based education would not be available to Maine schools, which would make funding the position a challenge.
“This is a position that has not yet been filled,” Kukenberger said. “We did bring on a K-2 principal that is also serving as an improvement strategist in a dual role. We have already reallocated a position at the middle school to fill the improvement strategist role there. The high school position was not yet filled. We really made that decision after the first referendum failed. We decided we needed to hold off hiring until we moved further.”
Kukenberger told the board the remaining two improvement strategists will work as a K-12 team while “identifying teacher leaders to help grow the work.”
She said potential impacts to the schools include slower progress toward goals, more responsibility and less support for individual teachers, and increased responsibilities for leadership teams.
The second school budget validation vote was the seventh time in the last six years a school budget has failed at the polls. In 2015, residents defeated it twice. It took two attempts in 2012, and three referendums in 2013 before voters passed the budget.
Voting on the latest budget proposal on Sept. 5 will be conducted from 7 a.m.- 8 p.m. at the Municipal Building, 259 U.S. Route 1. Absentee ballots are still available and early voting in the clerk’s office will take place until Aug. 31 during normal business hours.
“I really hope people get out and vote for this budget because we cannot stand another decrease,” School Board member Donna Beeley said.
Board member Jacquelyn Perry said the current proposal fails to provide basic supplies for students.
“I’ve been doing this for a lot of years,” Perry continued. “… When you say we have fewer children now and want more money, that’s not true. That is absolutely not true. We would have to be reduced by at least 100 children to be able to reduce one teacher.”
The Scarborough School Board eliminated a high school improvement strategist in its latest budget cut.