Yarmouth schools seek more spending per student

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YARMOUTH — The proposed school budget for next year would increase almost $1.1 million, or 4.97 percent.

Residents would see a 1.6 percent increase in the contribution to the school budget from property taxes, because of an increase in state aid of over half a million dollars.

According to Superintendent Andrew Dolloff, the biggest driver in the fiscal year 2017 budget proposal of $23.1 million is increasing enrollment.

Dolloff said enrollment has gone up 14 percent since 2010, with almost 80 new students across the district’s four schools this year.

“We do hear that people move to Yarmouth for two major reasons,” he said. “One being the village and the other being the schools.”

Budget increases, however, haven’t been matching enrollment.

“We really haven’t been keeping pace,” Dolloff said.

The per-pupil budget in fiscal year 2016 was just over $13,800, about $100 less per pupil than it was in 2010.

In a letter to the School Committee, Dolloff said that can’t continue.

“It is not likely that the disparity between enrollment growth and expenditure increases can continue if we are to maintain our place as one of the most highly regarded public school systems in Maine,” he said.

With the increase in state aid this year, Dolloff said it is time for the district’s budget to be more closely aligned with the number of students, almost 1,600 this year.

Dolloff said the increase in state aid is the result of the jump in enrollment and the town’s property valuation, which declined after the Wyman Station power plant was decommissioned.

The budget is also being driven by an increase in salaries and benefits, which make up 63 and 17 percent of the total, respectively. Dolloff said the increase is due in part to the need to hire more staff to keep up with enrollment. Program expansions in music and technology are also playing a role.

The budget proposal has been presented to the School Committee by Dolloff and is scheduled to be voted on at the committee’s Feb. 25 meeting. The budget will be presented to the Town Council on March 10. Public hearings will be held April 14 and May 5.

On June 7, the budget will be discussed at the annual Town Meeting. It will go to a validation referendum June 14.

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

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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.