SAD 35 Looks to Address Decreased State Funding

By Mark Pechenik news@seacoastonline.com Mar 13, 2018
SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — Faced with a potential $425,000 decrease in state funding, SAD 35 Superintendent Mary C. Nash is recommending a 2.5 percent tax assessment increase for the fiscal year 2019.
Along with a property tax increase in support of Eliot and South Berwick schools, Nash proposed a 3.5 percent decrease in district budget expenditures. She made her recommendation as part of her preliminary budget report, which she presented to the SAD 35 board of directors at its March 12 meeting.
Nash said the loss of state funds is due in part to increased state funding for special education, disadvantaged students, career and vocational training and raising funding for basic educational services from 97 to 100 percent. Also directly affecting SAD 35 in terms of funding is a projected decrease of 84 students for the next academic year and a $71 million increase in local property valuation. Such valuation helps determine how much communities pay toward funding local education.
The Legislature determined an increase in the mil rate from 8.19 to 8.51 will be made to help fund local school districts.
Nash’s budget summary highlighted a mix of decreases and increases in district staffing to meet budget goals.
Nash proposes eliminating a third-grade teacher position at Central Elementary School, a fourth-grade teacher position at Marshwood Great Works School, and two eighth-grade English language arts teacher positions at Marshwood Middle School. In light of teaching consolidation at Sanford Regional vocational school, elimination of the district’s health occupation instructor is also proposed.
Nash said budget savings might also come from reduced health insurance costs as mandated by the Maine Education Association’s benefits trust. A reduction in health care costs from 109 percent in 2016 to 89.3 percent in 2017 could mean significantly lower premiums for the district.
Recommended staffing increases include a half-time English and a half-time social studies teacher at Marshwood High. The hiring of an assistant special services director who will participate in the search to replace retiring full-time director Dr. Carol Smith is also being proposed.
The district’s special services unit oversees education of students with disabilities, homeless youth and gifted and talented students.
Increases in non-staff spending include $35,000 for hot water pumps at Eliot Elementary School, $37,000 for the district’s worker’s compensation fund, $27,000 in electricity costs and $10,000 for grounds maintenance.
An additional $25,000 is being proposed for the district’s Pathways to Proficiency program to help under-performing students meet Maine’s new education proficiency standards.
Overall, Nash emphasized the district is in a better budgeting position this year than last when it faced a $769,000 shortfall. In particular, an increase in class size is unlikely in the new budget.
In other business
Nash summarized the district’s approach to the March 14 nationwide student action in support of the Parkland, Florida, students killed and wounded in the recent mass shooting at their high school.
District students will be allowed to leave their classes from 10 to 10:17 a.m. to show solidarity with the Parkland students. The students will be encouraged to remain in their school buildings during that time. However, students who have a signed parental permission slip, will be able to exit school buildings.
Several opinions were voiced at Monday’s meeting in response to the district’s plan. An Eliot resident said schools are “no place for political protest.” A South Berwick parent said the permission slip promoted “healthy discussion” about the protest with his children.
Will Hausmann, a student representative to the board, expressed concern that allowing students to leave classes could somehow take away from the “power” of the protest.
Nash stressed the district’s plan doesn’t “endorse or take a political side” on the protest.

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