SCARBOROUGH — The School Board on March 18 approved a revised budget that restores more than $460,000 to the superintendent’s proposed budget.
The budget includes funds for several positions originally scheduled to be cut and asks for a 3.87 percent increase in taxes.
The state recently increased the subsidy the school will receive by nearly $562,000, which will be used to fund the restored positions, as well as possible increases in health insurance costs.
Two allied arts teachers, a physical education teacher and a guidance counselor position were restored at the primary level, along with a classroom teacher at Wentworth Intermediate School, a classroom teacher at the middle school and English and history teachers at the high school.
Many other reductions still remain in the $28.4 million spending plan that now goes to the Town Council Finance Committee. The School Board approved the budget 6-1, with Jacquelyn Perry opposed.
“Any reductions would still keep us under the board’s class-size requirements,” Superintendent David Doyle said.
A classroom teacher will still be eliminated at the primary level and all of the library techs will be reduced to half-time positions.
At Wentworth Intermediate School, two classroom teachers, several allied arts teachers and foreign language teachers, two secretaries and a library tech will be eliminated.
At the middle school, two classroom teachers, a health/phys ed teacher, and art, foreign language and music teachers will be cut.
At the high school, building ed techs and library techs were eliminated, and the photography teacher was cut.
A pay-to-play program for extracurricular programs and athletics will also be implemented.
“(The budget) won’t eliminate anything completely, but it certainly whittles away at programs,” said Doyle. He said the schools will have to adjust schedules and restructure programs to deal with the losses in staff.
The changes proposed by the Finance Committee came after more than 60 residents turned out for the town manager’s presentation of the budget to the Town Council last week and encouraged the town to support education, even if it means a property tax increase.
“The community’s involvement is important,” Doyle said, “however, I don’t think the board went as far as people would have liked.”
For Kerry Goulder, a Scarborough resident and the owner of the children’s product design company, Kid Giddy, any reduction in programming is too much.
“Unless the budget is a positive, it’s totally unacceptable,” she said.
Goulder, who has two daughters in primary school, said she would like to see an increase in the allocation of taxes to the schools, and away from the municipal government. She emphasized the need for a strong arts education and said she is frustrated that these programs were the first to get cut.
“My daughters need these programs. Everybody needs the arts. To take that out of a school is devastating,” she said.
During last week’s meeting, several speakers addressed the connection between property values and the quality of the school system, while others called for transfers of funds from municipal expenditures such as the Fire Department, to cover teacher salaries.
“It’s a question of priorities,” resident Ian Grant said. “Our priority should remain the schools.”
Town Manager Tom Hall said the School Department has a relatively low cost-per-pupil ratio, compared to similarly performing schools in the area. He said he attributes some of that to the close relationship between the school system and the municipal government.
The town and school share software purchases, payroll and technical support staff, vehicle and bus maintenance. School Department administrative offices are in the municipal building, which also saves on energy and building maintenance costs.
“We see $1.8 million in savings for shared services,” Hall said.
However, Hall admitted that teacher salaries are also a part of the reason per-pupil costs low.
“Having the lowest cost per pupil is not something to cheer about,” said Chris Taylor, a resident who also spoke at last week’s council meeting. “We’re at a crossroads. I have concerns about where we might be going.”
Citizens will vote on the school budget in a referendum on May 11.
Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org