Schools getting extra money from feds

AUGUSTA — Maine schools are getting some extra money to help them in a tough economy, thanks to a jobs bill passed by Congress and President Obama.

Lewiston is getting $825,514; Auburn, $632,130; Oxford Hills in Oxford, $790,000; Jay, $305,743; and Lisbon, $199,917.

The money is part from the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act, to help schools rehire or retain teachers and other education jobs.

Statewide, Maine schools are receiving $39 million, according to the Department of Education. The money can be used this year or next to rehire, avoid layoffs, restore furlough days for teachers, principals, librarians, food service personnel, bus drivers and other school positions.

Several superintendents said Friday they plan to save most or all of the money to help buffer big cuts expected next year when federal stimulus money is scheduled to end.

Oxford Hills Superintendent Rick Colpitts said his district is receiving more than expected. “We're very excited,” Colpitts said.

His budget committee will review the numbers Tuesday. “My recommendation will be take that $790,000 and sit on it.” Next year he expects a $2 million cut. “Just one month's payroll is over $1 million. So it'll go a long ways towards helping next year. I'll be able to retain staff.

Sabattus-Wales-Litchfield Superintendent Jim Hodgkin said he plans to recommend to his school board that some $80,000 be spent this year to fill  a needed position, and save the remaining $145,000 for 2011-12.

“That is the year we're all looking at,” Hodgkin said. “This year there is an approved budget.” As long as there are no cuts from the state, “we should be able to make it through with the budget we have,” Hodgkin said.

He'll recommend most of the money be carried over to soften next year's cuts. “We'll be able to save some jobs,” Hodgkin said.

Last year, his three towns consolidated schools and cut 20.5 positions, all in grades K-8 with the high school untouched. If more cuts are needed next year, the high school would be looked at, he said.

Auburn Superintendent Tom Morrill and Lewiston Superintendent Leon Levesque said more money is good news, and they too will save.

“The forecast for us is to lose $1.6 million in 2011-12. Through the jobs bill, we can hold it and help to blunt the severe revenue downturn we do expect next year," Morrill said.

Next year, Lewiston expects a $1.5 million gap: $900,000 of federal stimulus money that won't be coming and $600,000 less from the state. The extra  money will help “fill the hole we're facing next year,” Levesque said. “It would be extremely prudent to put that money aside.”

Levesque is retiring in December, but will present a budget proposal before he leaves.

The money from Congress is the same legislation that former Poland music teacher Lee Libby lobbied for in Washington. In July she met with Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, telling Snowe about how she was one of about a dozen teachers who lost their jobs, and how students were going without.

In July, Snowe had not decided if she'd support the bill. But she and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, ended up casting the key votes to break the filibuster and support the bill. U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree, both Maine Democrats, also voted for it.

On Friday, Poland Superintendent Dennis Duquette said Libby and other teachers laid off will not be rehired, even with the federal money, because "the positions aren't sustainable, and we've restructured. We have a school budget plan that's going to work.”

He will also recommend saving for next year when Poland-Minot-Mechanic Falls schools face large cuts. “We don't want to lose any more programs or positions,” Duquette said.

After Snowe voted for the bill in August, Libby said it was satisfying to know she was able to play a small part in trying to help students. She hoped the money would keep educators working so schools could maintain the arts and reasonable class sizes.

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 's picture

the reality of it all

"This is just the reality of it all"?

This is just a small small part of the reality of it all.

Carrie LaRoche's picture

Small reality?

This is no SMALL reality.

Too many American's have chose the "live for today" way of life. Are all the failures and bail-outs an indication of where this leads?

You cannot BORROW your way out of debt..... it is against all common sense to believe you can.

Our Government wants nothing more than for a few more of us to be dependent on them.... it gives them the power to demand we live their way of life. Another 5% of the population to go and they have a 50% vote guarantee - since all those in line for handouts will be compelled to vote for those willing to hand them a little more "free money"

This "free money" is a prime example. Now the districts that took money are bound by these rules that will surely be a negative impact in the future. Who in these districts will vote in someone that will demand they balance their budget? They will vote for those that will just further tax the other guy to give them more handouts.

All truth be told... I probably fall into the 5% that would benefit from the future bailouts. I am certainly not rich but am not in the "tax refund " group yet... and I don't desire to be. I'd rather keep my freedom!

What happened to being responsible for yourself? Everyone's taxes go down if everyone carries their weight

Bob Stone's picture

The Emporer Has No Clothes

Extend and pretend...

The idea now is to finance more errors - while supporting the old ones - with money from the federal government. If the feds can pretend that everything is extending enough cash and credit...then everything will BE all right...

..until the federal government itself runs out of money. Then, the whole thing blows up.

In the meantime, who can say he's not having fun?

Print money and be damned.

It's for the children, right? Good for the schools.

What Bonnie left out of the story (or was edited out by our erstwhile editorial board) was the serious mess this is going to leave the next legislature and governor in when they try to balance the next budget. You see, this manna from heaven comes with strings attached. Obama has put any reduction in school spending "Off limits" in the next budget. So, it looks like the next legislature has to find $1 billion in spending cuts from the DHHS and the rest of state government operations without touching general purpose aid to education.

Oh well. If it were easy, anyone could do it.

 's picture

Again another campaign ad from the

LePage for governor committee. Where's the disclaimer? Does LePage 'approve' this message? Come on, this is campaign ad pure and simple, let's adhere to the law.


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