Budget raised by 5.4 percent

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SALEM – SAD 58’s $9.5 million budget for 2006-07 has gone up by nearly 5.4 percent but, partly because of an increase in state subsidy this year, the local taxpayers’ share of the increase is only going up by 1.33 percent.

SAD 58 Superintendent Quenten Clark said because of the minimal tax increase this year, the mill rate in most district towns will be going down. Only Strong, however, will see an actual decrease in its school tax.

Getting the budget down in a year fraught with hikes in almost every big district expenditure required cutting teaching positions, Clark said.

While “total insurance cost is up about $100,000” for next year, Clark said the biggest cost increase was in fuel, which “went up by about 40 percent.”

At first, Clark and the school board considered reducing the full-time high school art teaching position to parttime and laying off a librarian. Students rebelled, though, writing letters, papering the Mount Abram High School walls with handmade posters, and resorting to tearful pleas at a school board meeting.

For the past decade or so, Clark said, class sizes have been steadily shrinking as families move to look for jobs and fewer people with children move into the district. So every time a teacher retires or resigns, Clark said, the school board considers cutting a position and shuffling staff around the district schools to reduce new hires.

This year, while the district will add a math teacher to the high school, the school board voted to cut a physical education and two elementary teaching positions, “due to declining enrollment.”

Clark said the state is paying $3.74 million of the district’s $9.5 million budget – an increase of $413,000. And while the budget is up by nearly 5.4 percent, there will be a decrease in the mill rate by “almost 4 cents on the thousand.”

Strong will be paying less than they did last year by $17,000. In other district towns taxes will rise by between .5 and nearly 3 percent. Eustis faces the highest increase, 2.92 percent or $31,000. Kingfield follows close behind, with rates rising by nearly 2.6 percent and an approximately $20,000 increase. Avon will be paying nearly 1.5 percent more than in 2005-06, or about $4,975, and Phillips will have to pay about 1 percent, or $6,201 more than last year.

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