MSAD 35 Superintendent Condemns Possible State Funding Cut

By Mark Pechenik / Feb 14, 2018 SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — Stating she was “bitterly disappointed,” SAD 35 Superintendent Mary C. Nash announced a potential loss of $425,000 in state education funding for the upcoming school year.

Nash made her announcement at Wednesday’s SAD 35 board of directors meeting. She said she learned of the education subsidy reduction at a recent meeting of the Maine school superintendents association where increases to special education, disadvantaged youth, career and technical education and basic education funding were announced.

The proposed education funding formula puts SAD 35 at a disadvantage, according to Nash. “There are two local factors in play,” she said. “Next year, we are likely to see an enrollment decrease of 84 students. At the same time, there is likely to be a $71 million increase in local property valuation.”

Declining enrollment and increasing property values will be an ongoing trend, she said, adding, “it creates a gap (in education funding) that won’t change for the foreseeable future.”

Nevertheless, she indicated at least two bright spots in the challenging funding formula.

“We won’t be in the same position as we were last year when we faced a $769,000 shortfall from the state,” Nash said. And while workforce cuts may be necessary in the district, class size may dictate staffing increases in some instances.

At the same time, decreases in health care expenses over the past several years could mean reduced health insurancerates which, in turn, would amount to considerable savings to the district.

The district should have a better reading on next year’s health insurance rates by April, Nash said. In the meantime, she and other district officials are petitioning local and state legislators for additional funding for the district. Nash also said she will submit her initial proposed budget for the 2018-2019 academic year at the board’s March 7 meeting.

In other news

Board members approved a $10,000 grant from Hannaford’s Supermarkets to Central Elementary School. The funding will support the South Berwick school’s Outdoor Classroom program featuring gardens where students grow healthy, natural foods.

The grant was made possible, in part, through the efforts of South Berwick author and celebrity chef Kathy Gunst, along with school officials Vicky Stewart and Principal Nina D’Aran. Gunst has been educating Central School students about healthy eating, including on the preparation and cooking of Outdoor Classroom plants and vegetables. As part of the funding, Central School will extend the Outdoor Classroom concept to other schools in the district, as well as recruit other local chefs into the program.

Nash called the grant a “tremendous gift to the community” and thanked Central School administrators and teachers for their “leadership and vision.”

Finally, board members congratulated Marshwood Middle School eighth-grader Aiden R. Allen for his winning essay in the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Patriots Pen State Essay Contest. The competition recognizes students who submit patriotism-themed essays. Aiden won out over more than 1,000 Maine middle school students. He will receive a $500 award and is eligible to compete on the national level for a $54,500 award.

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