YARMOUTH — Town councilors, who have no say in education spending, had few comments as they scheduled a public hearing on the fiscal year 2013 school budget.
By a 4-0 vote Tuesday, with Councilors Carlton Winslow, Erv Bickford and Tim Sanders absent, councilors set an April 19 date for the public hearing on a proposed $20.16 million budget that includes the introduction of full-day kindergarten classes.
The budget was presented by School Committee Chairman David Ray and will be subject to public votes on June 5 and 12.
Councilor Andrew Kittredge sought some clarification on the future costs of kindergarten classes, and Council Chairman Steve Woods said he wondered how incoming students from Chebeague Island will affect revenue in the future.
But councilors did not offer any other guidance or input on the budget, which contains a 1.85 percent spending increase.
Budget documents provided at the meeting show the spending increase would require a 4.5 percent increase in property tax allocations, from $17.44 million to $18.23 million.
School Superintendent Judy Paolucci said the proposed budget went through several revisions as School Committee members whittled away at the initial $381,000 property tax commitment for kindergarten classes.
Use of $150,000 accumulated Clipper Care funds, eliminating a proposed bus driver position and shifting some spending to the capital funds budget reduced the portion of new property tax revenues to about $65,000. Ray reminded councilors that a portion of the kindergarten start-up costs, including furniture, are one-time expenses.
The Clipper Care funds, set aside over the last several years, will be used up this year, he said.
Because preschool children are now more likely to be part of day care for pre-kindergarten programs and test scores indicate students in full-day kindergarten achieve testing benchmarks more rapidly, Ray said the kindergarten needs expansion.
“Now is the time to implement our program,” he said.
Expanding to full-day kindergarten requires hiring three additional teachers and two educational technicians. The proposed budget also calls for adding a fourth-grade teacher and adding a half day per week for the instructor at the middle school gifted and talented program.
Ray also told councilors the School Department is reaching its limits in how much surplus can be used to fund annual budgets. The capital improvements budget for larger purchases and repairs is underfunded and any reduction in state subsidies would be hard to make up, he said.
Yarmouth schools will receive $1.48 million, or an additional $11,000, in Maine Department of Education Essential Programs and Services subsidies, but that is less than Paolucci anticipated.
The department was also confronted with a loss of about $533,000 in federal jobs bill funds from legislation enacted in 2010 and no longer available. Paolucci and Ray said the loss is offset almost by the retirement of the principal and interest payments for the bond that funded construction of Harrison Middle School.
Retiring the bond allowed the department to reallocate about $455,000 in debt service payments to other budget areas.
Ray noted about 78 percent, or $15.71 million, of the proposed fiscal year 2013 budget is allocated to staff salaries and benefits. District salary increase are budgeted at almost $586,000 and benefit costs are budgeted to increase by nearly 6 percent, or $168,000.
The proposed fiscal year 2013 school budget was approved by the School Committee on March 8.