Yarmouth aims to fit all-day kindergarten into school budget

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YARMOUTH — Ensuring the Yarmouth School District could fund all-day kindergarten classes has been a goal for Superintendent Judy Paolucci since budget deliberations began this year.

As the School Committee prepared to vote on the $20.16 million fiscal year 2013 budget, Paolucci’s goal was met much like a hair stylist trimming a bit here and there.

“We are still working out a few details,” Paolucci said Tuesday.

It is a process made more difficult by the increase in fuel costs, she added, but the School Committee was scheduled to vote on the budget Thursday, after the Forecaster deadline.

Once approved, the school budget raising spending by about 1.84 percent will be presented to town councilors at their regular meeting March 19.

Town Manager Nat Tupper rescheduled the council meeting from March 15 because of conflicting schedules for councilors. The meeting will begin as usual at 7 p.m. at the Log Cabin.

Paolucci’s latest budget revisions include cutting $22,000 from transportation, waiting another year or two to spend $2,500 on a new kiln for Rowe School and using capital reserve funds to buy almost $59,000 of furniture for kindergarten classes.

The cuts came after discussions by School Committee members on how to create a full-day kindergarten program for an estimated 110 students. As initially conceived, a full-day kindergarten program would have cost $381,000, according to budget documents.

Expanding the kindergarten classes requires hiring three new teachers and two educational technicians, according to budget documents.

Passing the cost straight on to taxpayers would have required a projected 4.6 percent increase in local tax revenues, Paolucci said.

Without the kindergarten expansion, Paolucci’s fiscal year 2013 budget sought an increase of 3.7 percent in property tax revenues to about $18.15 million.

By using district funds of $150,000, and cutting $100,000 in other proposed spending, School Committee members had whittled the cost to taxpayers to about $130,000 as last month’s budget workshops concluded.

After the budget workshops last month, School Committee members agreed to discuss more ways of reducing costs to pay for kindergarten expansion, but not at the expense of needed services and programs.

Paolucci said by making selective cuts and no wholesale program or service eliminations, the added cost to taxpayers for full-day kindergarten for next year is about $65,000.

Paolucci said she wants to expand kindergarten because it better prepares students to the extent it can boost standardized testing scores when they reach third grade.

Last month, School Committee Chairman David Ray agreed the expansion is needed and said it was coming even if it could not be achieved this year.

Paolucci and Ray supported the idea in the face of a difficult budgeting year because the district was working with about $135,000 less than anticipated. The Maine Department of Education increased its Essential Programs and Services funding by $11,000 for fiscal year 2013, but Paolucci said the district expected a larger increase and was unable to get reimbursement for a bus purchase from last year because a van was bought instead.

The projected budget would represent an estimated $14.60 per $1,000 of assessed value in a possible town tax rate of $21.01 per $1,000 of assessed value for fiscal year 2013.The tax rate is based on a preliminary budget drafted by Tupper in late January. Councilors are still discussing the municipal budget, Tupper said.

The proposed fiscal year 2013 school budget will face two votes in June. The 11 “cost centers” detailing spending in areas including general instruction, special education, facilities and maintenance and transportation will be considered June 5.

The entire budget will be on the June 12 ballot as a yes or no vote.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow David on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.