School tax scenarios vary for SAD 75 towns

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TOPSHAM — The School Administrative District 75 superintendent is aiming for a budget with no overall increase in tax revenue.

But while the combined local share from taxpayers would remain at $18.7 million, individual shares for Topsham, Bowdoin and Bowdoinham would increase – by 3.15 percent, 2.18 percent and 2.36 percent, respectively – while Harpswell’s share would decrease by nearly 5 percent.

That would produce a spending plan for fiscal 2012 that is nearly $594,000 less than the current budget, Superintendent Mike Wilhelm explained last week. This year’s $34.7 million budget would drop to $34.1 million.

Wilhelm noted that Harpswell’s reduced local share would reflect a drop in its valuation, while the valuations of the other SAD 75 towns has increased.

The state contribution to the budget could decrease by more than $1 million, from $14.7 million to $13.7 million.

“The goal here is to fill the million-dollar gap,” Wilhelm said.

A step toward that goal is nearly $410,000 left in money the district received through the federal Education Jobs Fund program; SAD 75 applied only a small amount of those funds toward its fiscal 2011 budget and chose to save the rest, which it now has available for next year’s budget. That money can only be used for non-administrative salaries, Wilhelm said.

SAD 75 is losing about $158,000 in other revenues. But it may also receive $10,000 more in federal impact aid money – which the district receives because it educates children of military families – for a total of $30,000.

The district could also use $1.1 million in carry-over funds – $200,000 more than in fiscal 2011 – to offset the state revenue loss. Voters will have to approve the use of those funds.

Wilhelm said personnel and programs are among the areas being considered to bring about a flat district-wide assessment. About $600,000 must be found to make up for the revenue losses.

“This is the third year of pretty dramatic budget cuts,” he said.

The budget will be discussed at three public forums: on March 30 at West Harpswell School, March 31 at Bowdoinham Community School and April 6 at Woodside Elementary School in Topsham.

Wilhelm said he does not expect a final draft budget to be ready until April 13. The School Board is due to vote on it April 28. Voters must approve the budget at a Town Meeting-style gathering on May 26, followed by a budget validation referendum June 14.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.

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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.