South Portland school budget may cut teachers, staff

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Superintendent Suzanne Godin on Monday presented the School Board with a proposed 2016 school budget of nearly $46 million, which includes the elimination of about five teaching and staff positions across the school district. 

The spending proposal, up about $1 million from last year, calls for a 10 percent cut in operating expenditures and reductions of an elementary teacher, a resource room teacher and the district’s completion coordinator position. Five library clerk positions would be replaced by two technology ed-tech positions. 

“As we build our budget we continue to look at the vision for South Portland schools as the foundation of the decisions that we make as we’re moving forward with the budget,” Godin said. 

Many of the cuts were made to keep the school portion of the city’s property tax rate to an increase of 3.05 percent. That portion of the tax would increase from $10.43 to $10.75 per $100,000 of assessed value.

Godin noted that the district has received a preliminary state subsidy of about $5 million, which is $98,000 less than it received last year.

Godin said the cuts were necessary but troubling, especially the elimination of the completion coordinator, who works with students and families to help decrease truancy levels and increase graduation rates.

“I believe it will cause severe impact on students,” Godin said of the position’s elimination. “The only reason we put it on was to get to a 3 percent budget. 

“Graduate rates have increased, truancy rates have decreased. (These are) completely a result of the work that our completion coordinator has been doing,” Godin said. 

“I can’t say strongly enough how concerned we are about the impact of losing this position.”

The shift from librarian to technology education technician positions is a proposal that Godin feels is necessary.

“With the shift to technology integration and online assessments, we’re feeling that it’s time for us to increase our technology support at the elementary schools,” she said.  

Eventually, Godin said, the district will likely move to “volunteer support in our libraries for checking out and book circulation.”

Cuts also include reducing eight middle school athletic positions — four in basketball and four in soccer — while adding staff for the field hockey, girls’ lacrosse and boys’ lacrosse teams.

Other cuts, including a teacher for academically gifted students, are also being considered.

“There are some significant position cuts in this budget that I am concerned (about) moving forward with, but my goal that I set for our administrative team was to come in right about 3 percent,” Godin said.

 The School Board will be reviewing the proposed budget over the next few weeks.

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or aacquisto@theforecaster.net. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA.

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South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.