Schools face budget challenges, again

JAY — Superintendent Bob Wall told School Committee members recently that it's getting more difficult to run schools due to declining enrollment, state revenue and state aid.

To continue the school system as it is now is not impossible, he said, but it will make it a lot more difficult as time passes.

If Jay consolidates with RSU 36, it is estimated it will lose about $217,454 in state aid; if it does not, the loss is estimated to be $441,780, Wall said.

If voters in the three towns approve consolidation Jan. 25, Jay’s anticipated $200,000 plus in penalties won’t be deducted from state aid.

That does not take into account any increase in the school budget, Wall said.

Administrators were able to lower the budgets the last couple of years with the federal stimulus money that came through the state and helped save some jobs. There were still positions eliminated but not as many as initially expected.

The stimulus funding is going away and federal Jobs’ Bill package money is expected. But as it is that would only take care of about five positions due to conditions on the money, Business Manager Stacie Lowe said. The school system is projected to receive $305,000 from the bill but Jay will have to pay 19 percent of it into Maine State Retirement because it is federal money, she said.

Wall and administrators are building two budgets this year: One if the two systems consolidate; another if Jay goes solo.

Among the challenges Jay faces in the 2011-12 budget is the addition of an estimated $13,500 for Dumpster services and $13,500 for sewer costs.

Selectmen voted Monday to do away with the town’s Dumpster service as of June 30. The board had also postponed for one year charging town entities in 2010 for sewer costs, but it is expected those costs will be implemented this year.

Then there is the student-to-teacher service ratio.

Administrators have been keeping tabs on student enrollment on a weekly basis. The current school year started with 745 students. As of the week of Dec. 22, there were 734, Wall said.

At that time, the lowest levels were 37 students in grade two, 45 in grade one, 46 in grade seven and 43 in grade nine. The only grades that remained steady from the beginning of the school year were 72 students in kindergarten and 55  in grade 12.

The projection is that the numbers will continue to decrease as years go by, he said.

Wall gave an overview of per pupil costs from 2004-05 to 2009-10. At the elementary level grades kindergarten through eight, it cost $8,164 to educate each student in 2004-05 and $8,175 in 2009-10. In neighboring RSU 36 at the elementary level for the same period, it was $5,483 and $6,735. The state average was $6,100 and $7,361.

At the high school level, Jay’s cost per student was $9,355 in 2004-05 and $11,209 in 2009-10. In RSU 36, it was $7,218 and $9,171. The statewide average for the same period was $7,205 and $8,798.

Education and associated costs, include buildings, are factored into the numbers.

The higher cost per student is really a function of having fewer students and wanting to hold onto programs, Wall said. In doing so, the per student cost goes up, he said.

To educate the Jay High School Class of 2009-10 over four years, it cost $44,508 per student, or $2.49 million for 56 students, Wall said.

The per-student state average for those four years is $34,286 for 56 students. The total was $1.9 million.

dperry@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Ellen Levesque's picture

If the towns vote to

If the towns vote to consolidate, there is no directive to close any buildings, consolidate any classes, or lose any positions. Closing the high school and middle school building in Livermore Falls is only a recommendation. Jay would give away all the real estate and land to the RSU and would lose it forever. The AYS could lose their use of the land their building is setting on as well as the rooms they use in the community building as there is no reference to any of that in the article. Yes there need to be some changes made but I do not believe giving up Jay property and all control over the education of our children is the answer. It will not save any movey and in fact could cost much more. People should really think about voting on an article that really does not tell us anything about what is going to happen.

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