Yarmouth school chief proposes 'maintenance budget' with 3.5% hike

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YARMOUTH — The superintendent of schools is proposing a 3.5 percent increase in the fiscal year 2018 budget.

Superintendent Andrew Dolloff presented the proposed $23.9 million budget to the School Committee in two workshops, Jan. 30 and Feb. 6. The proposal includes eliminating funds to pay for advanced placement tests, which would save $50,000.

The proposed 2017-18 school-year budget is an increase of more than $808,000 from the current budget.

In a memo to the School Committee, Dolloff said he expects the final budget to have an increase at or below 3 percent. He said his projection is based on anticipated salary adjustments and expenditure reductions in the custodial and transportation departments.

Dolloff’s budget proposes no new positions or programming, or any expansion of programming. 

“The funds requested will simply allow us to maintain most of our current programming at current staffing levels, allowing only for projected annual increases to salaries, benefits, supplies, and services,” he said.

The proposed budget, according to Dolloff, is a “maintenance budget.” He said reductions were made in certain areas to “attempt to minimize the operating budget’s impact on the taxpayer.”

One reduction being proposed is the elimination of the $50,000 usually allocated to pay for Yarmouth High School students’ AP test fees. Under Dollof’s proposal, parents would pick up the cost. He said $3,000 has been kept in the budget for AP tests in case there are students who need financial assistance.

The budget also cuts $20,000 from the high school for new books, supplies and equipment. Principal Eric Klein said those items can continue to be used next year “without impacting student learning.”

This year’s budget of $23.1 million, which was a 4.97 percent increase from the prior year, generated unprecedented debate in Yarmouth. Last spring residents filled the Log Cabin to capacity for discussions about the budget and “yes” and “no” signs were visible on properties all over town. Voters eventually approved the budget by a 2-1 margin in June 2016.

The current budget was driven by increasing enrollment, which Dolloff said is also a driver for the proposed fiscal year 2018 budget. He said the budget increase is smaller this year because additional staff was hired last year.

School Committee members, however, said they may want to hire an additional first-grade teacher. Rowe School Principal Ellen Honan on Jan. 30 said the school needs one because of the size of this year’s kindergarten class, although there is no classroom for a new teacher to use. 

The committee discussed several options, including purchasing a mobile classroom, which Dolloff said would be too expensive. Another idea was to have the new teacher use the music or art classroom. The committee said it plans to discuss more options at future meetings. 

The committee is scheduled to meet Feb. 9 for a first reading of the budget. The finance committee plans to meet Feb. 14 and March 7 for further review, and the School Committee on March 9 is scheduled to adopt a budget.

The school budget will be presented to the Town Council on March 16. The council will have readings and public hearings for the budget on April 6 and May 4. The budget will be voted on at the annual Town Meeting on June 6, and will go to referendum for final approval by voters on June 13.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.