Waterford, Maine

Debate, discussion about possible
extra money for SAD 17

by Leslie Dixon, Staff Writer Sun Journal May 3, 2017

PARIS — The majority of the SAD 17 Board of Directors have voted to place an article on the district budget hearing/meeting on Thursday, June 8, that, if approved, will require the board to use any additional state subsidy received to fund educational programs, facility needs, reduce the tax burden on local taxpayers and other measures.

The action was taken at the Monday, May 1 Board of Directors meeting following a presentation of the proposed $39,688,294 fiscal 2018 school budget and lengthy discussion on what to do with extra state money that may come back to the district once the state budget is settled.

SAD 17 Barry Patrie of Waterford
SAD 17 school board Chairman Ron Kugell, left, argues for returning any extra state aid for education to local taxpayers as directors Barry Patrie of Waterford and Michael Mann of Norway listen.

The article will be placed on the June 8 annual district budget/hearing meeting where the proposed fiscal 2018 school budget will be acted on. Voters will also be asked in a separate warrant article to approve exceeding EPS by $1,094,849. The meeting gets underway at 7 p.m. in the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School Forum.

Budget Committee Chairman Bob Jewell said the committee discussed four options to determine how to spend any additional state subsidy that is received if the SAD 17 budget is approved before the state approves its spending plan.

Normally, if additional state subsidies are received after a budget is in place, the money has been placed in the carry-over account and made available in the next fiscal year.

This year, Jewell said, because of the large cuts, the budget and the impact to the taxpayers the Budget Committee decided to look at how best to use any potentially unforeseen money.

The options included using all the money for specific cost center expenditures; increasing the Reserve Fund; decreasing the impact to local taxpayers or a combination of decreasing the local taxpayers shares and increasing the reserve fund; increasing money to school programs and facilities, and placing some in contingency funds.

But because committee members were split on a recommendation – three members wanting the money to go directly back to taxpayers and three members wanting to use the money not only to offset some of the local share but also to increase the available money for programming, facilities needs and so forth, the two opposing sides presented their arguments to the full board.

School Board Chairman Ron Kugell of Oxford argued for using the money to lower the impact on the local taxpayer.

“For the average taxpayer our proposed budget looks really scary. Everyone is going to get hit hard. Hopefully it won't be that much but I feel any additional money should go to reducing what the taxpayers have to pay.”

Budget Committee member Barry Patrie of Waterford gave the opposing view saying he favored using the money for the many unmet needs.

“For years we've scrimped ... we've put off things. I think things are getting worse, physical structures, the morale of the staff.”

The majority of the Board of Directors said they were in favor of spreading the potential money across the board.

“We don't know what's coming (additional state monies). It doesn't mean we have to spend it, “ said Director Lewis Williams of Hebron.

Waterford Director Judy Green said she hopes people will contact their legislators to voice their concerns about the inequities in the state funding.

Director Jared Cash of Norway said he favored using the money for a variety of needs, including educational programs, facilities and returning some to the taxpayers but warned the action has to be "messaged" correctly to voters.

Preliminary budget 

In addition to the warrant article, directors were given a preview of the preliminary proposed school budget of $39,688,294 – a 1.73 percent hike over last year's budget.

The increased costs in the proposed budget are: $500,000 or 2.5 percent in negotiated pay increases; $789,000 or 15 percent in special education; $475,000 or 8.065 percent in health insurance; $42,000 in reading curriculum; $32,000 in assessments; Gifted and Talented accountwith $30,000 for professional development.

It also includes a total increase of $55,000 to bring back full-time principals at Hebron Station and Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris, one additional bus purchase (the budget does include the purchase of three more as is traditional to keep the bus fleet under 10 years of age).

The budget fails to provide money to restore full-time principals at Harrison Waterford and Otisfield elementary schools, many facilities improvements, the hiring of additional teachers to reduce class size, increased nursing services and more.

Director Bob Celeste who represents Harrison said people in his town are frustrated by the inequities of the EPS formula and what he perceives as overspending on personnel by the district.

On Monday, May 15, the superintendent will present the final budget to the board of directors for adoption. The meeting, begins at 7 p.m. in the administration building.

In other action directors approved:

  • authorizing the superintendent to proceed with Part 2 of an application process for the development of an integrated consolidated educational facility. The application will give the district an opportunity to apply for additional construction funds for a combined high and middle school. The application is contingent upon the approval of the first part of the application by the Maine Department of Education, which asks for funding for a middle school construction.
  • the superintendent's nomination of secondary year probationary contracts for 36 teachers; third year probationary contracts for 31 teachers; and continuing contracts for 18 teachers. The probationary and continuing contracts are required under state law if a teacher is going to continue his or her employment with the district the next school year.