School jobs, programs still on the line despite state revenue gains

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BRUNSWICK — Although more optimistic state revenue projections released last week could save local education jobs, school officials warned that several positions will still have to be cut.

Superintendents from the region’s three districts responded to Gov. John Baldacci’s March 3 announcement restoring $20 million in state education aid amid new revenue projections.

If ratified by the Legislature, reductions in local education subsidies won’t be as drastic as originally expected. However, school officials doubted that the kinder cut would stave off layoffs and program reductions.

In Brunswick, the aid cut will be $2.4 million under Baldacci’s new proposal, about $390,000 less than originally proposed.

Superintendent Paul Perzanoski said the restored funding would preserve five teaching jobs that he would otherwise have to cut. Perzanoski said he received the news last week, just as he’d begun meeting with staff who could lose their jobs.

“We’re going in a positive direction, which is nice after the downward trend,” Perzanoski said.

Regional School Unit 1 was projected last month to receive $7.06 million in state subsidy. The greater Bath district now expects to receive $7.33 million, narrowing its shortfall from $637,000 to $368,000.

RSU 1 Superintendent William Shuttleworth said last week that the decreased reduction “only reduces the number of people that I’m going to have to cut. That’s how miserable it is right now.”

The fiscal 2011 shortfall, although smaller, only adds to previous curtailments, Shuttleworth said. He said he is not planning to receive any federal Medicaid money, which the state distributes to its schools.

“We’re hearing that money is going to be completely extinguished,” Shuttleworth said of the approximately $135,000 his district has received annually.

School Administrative District 75 faced a possible subsidy cut of $1.75 million last month; Baldacci’s proposed budget changes have trimmed that cut to $1.5 million, while projected state funding to the district has increased from $14.43 million to $14.67 million.

“Every little bit helps,” SAD 75 Superintendent Mike Wilhelm said last week.

However, Wilhelm said the district still stands to lose a substantial amount of money.

“We have to do all the same things that we had to do with a ($1.75 million loss) that we have to do for ($1.5 million),” he said.

Wilhelm said he has discussed savings methods with the School Board and Finance Committee. They include staff cuts “in all aspects of the organization” and trimming back on some sports and co-curricular activities.

“Looking at virtually every expenditure we have and trying to find a dollar,” Wilhelm said.

Perzanoski said the rosier state aid projections wouldn’t stop him from seeking alternative funding sources or savings measures.

“It’s one day to the next,” he said. “I don’t think we can sit on our laurels and wait for legislators to do something. We have to do something for ourselves.”

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or