School Budget Heads to Referendum in MSAD 35

$29.3M school budget heads to referendum in MSAD 35
By Mark Pechenik
May 29, 2014 2:00 AM
SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — A majority of Maine School Administrative District 35 residents present at Wednesday’s budget meeting voted in favor of a nearly $29.3 million budget put forth by School Board members.

The 2015 fiscal year budget, which totals $29,273,623, will now be subject to ratification by South Berwick and Eliot voters in a June 10 district referendum. All 18 articles designating budget expenditures were approved.

The meeting started with School Board President Martha Leathe and district Superintendent Mary Nash summarizing budget highlights.

For the 2015 budget, Leathe said, “the board has chosen to invest in technology, facilities, and new initiatives to move our students forward.”

Among major expenditures for next year, Nash cited replacement of boilers at Great Works School at a cost of $187,000. This expense is necessary, she said, due to the inefficiency and age of the current boilers.

Another significant expense involves the third phase of the district’s technology plan at a cost of $50,000, which will replace outdated student and teacher computers.

Meanwhile, lease/purchase agreements for six new school buses comprise the bulk of $378,506 for student transportation — a 51.6 percent increase in this category. The buses will replace an aging fleet while also helping to avoid another $25,000 in unanticipated repairs realized this year, according to Nash.

On the program side, the district superintendent said, “For a modest investment of $10,000 per school, we will be able to expand learning opportunities for our students through after-school programs, advanced placement classes and other academic supports.”

Nash also emphasized that the proposed budget will ease taxpayers’ burden for school support by $584,499, the result of $374,499 in unused funds intended for teacher pensions and $210,000 in the district’s year-end surplus.

Among the articles approved by district residents was $12,382,301 for instruction and teacher salaries and benefits — an increase of 2.1 percent over the current budget — $3,507,520 for special education services; $152,552 for vocational training; and $3,357,225 for facilities maintenance.

Also approved by meeting participants were town contributions to the budget. For Eliot, this figure will be $6,706,800, while for South Berwick, it will be $5,352,075.

While most articles passed with no debate, Eliot resident Rebecca Davis questioned Article 14, which requires raising an additional $3,503,261 beyond the state subsidy for district operations.

The article states that additional funding is necessary to pay competitive salaries for teachers and staff, placement of nurses in each school, health insurance costs, and supplies and services, among other expenditures.

“So it is my understanding that this funding is to be raised completely by the local community without Maine contributing anything?” Davis asked.

The board indicated that she was correct.

In encouraging Eliot and South Berwick voters to ratify the budget June 10, Nash said, “We have kept our promise of being financially efficient while, at the same time, providing high quality programming for our children. This year, we ask for your support and participation.”


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