Head Start directors brace for cuts, helping fewer kids

If the Legislature approves new cuts to Head Start, Betsy Norcross Plourde says she would have to drop 25 children and let go of up to 10 staffers in Androscoggin County. Deb Florenz is looking at cutting 18 children and five staff in Oxford and Franklin counties.

Both program directors said Monday that they would also have to hustle to fill a gap: the roughly $150,000 each program currently receives from the state's General Fund nets $600,000 in a federal match.

Now state money and that match is suddenly in doubt.

A supplemental budget under consideration when the Legislature convenes for a special session Tuesday would cut $2 million of the General Fund's $2.4 million to Head Start. Statewide, that puts $8 million in matching federal funds in question.

"We're still trying to figure out what all of this means," said Florenz, who oversees Franklin and Oxford counties' Head Start for Community Concepts.

Her program serves 511 children from birth to age 5 and employs 130 people. Androscoggin Head Start & Child Care serves 300 children and employs 95.

Norcross Plourde said for her the cut would mean closing one or two classrooms.

"You're talking about working poor families who access care for their children that allows them to keep their job," she said. "What are they going to do if they lose child care?"

She suspects they'll opt for a less than ideal situation, ask family for help or go without.

Norcross Plourde said her $3.1 million budget, much of it from federal dollars, is already as lean as can be. "There's no more wiggle room."

Florenz said she's considering spreading the 18 cuts across different programs.

"Nobody wants to tell a child and a family there's no school for them next year," she said, adding that it's also frustrating to think of letting go of staff who've been "excellent." "It has nothing to do with the quality of the work."

It is possible to seek a waiver for one year if a program is caught short on its match, according to Florenz, that way both will initially brace for the loss of $150,000 and not the full $750,000.

Supporters of Head Start, MaineCare and other programs targeted for cuts in the new budget plan a rally Tuesday morning in the Hall of Flags at 9:45 a.m.

Gov. Paul LePage's office has called the proposal a matter of prioritizing needs.


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Jason Theriault's picture

Students first....

When LePage dubbed his policies “Students First”, someone cut off the end of the title. It was supposed to be “Students First…in line for cuts”.

GARY SAVARD's picture

The Lepage tax cuts are

The Lepage tax cuts are intended to conform with federal guidelines and reduce the top bracket from 8.50% to 7.95%. They also eliminate taxes for an estimated 70,000 low income Mainers. I suppose if someone already isn't paying any taxes and is 100% on the receiving end of all the programs available out there, then they are tax cuts for the "rich" . Will someone please define "rich"?

 's picture


Gary, the "rich" in Maine under the Democrats' definition are citizens whose incomes range higher than $18,000 to be taxed in the highest bracket, yet deemed poor enough to be eligible for most Social Programs paid by the taxpayers. Go figure!

JOHN PAINTER's picture

I get it's a rhetorical

I get it's a rhetorical question, but it's a good question to think about Gary. I think Lincoln once said a young person is someone who is 10 years younger than youreself, and an old person is someone 10 years older. In this instance rich (and poor) might be looked at in a similar light. I am concerned with the constant march this country is making up the Gini index, for a developed economy and society we have a rather unbalanced income distribution and the trend is showing greater divergence. In terms of median household income, the US census shows Maine at just under$47,000 for a family of about 2.3 people (I know my son would be sour if he heard he only counted as .3) and of course the President has suggested "wealthy" people are people with incomes over $250,0000. One might argue "rich" is a family with more than $57,000 household income.

Betty Davies's picture


Little children not being educated, Head Start workers being laid off, and tax breaks for millionaires--these are Paul LePage's priorities.

 's picture

was there any reduction to

was there any reduction to Administration? The Head Start program is still receiving $45,000,000 in funding. Tax breaks for what millionaires? Despite fiscal hard times, LePage increased Education Funding $60,000,000, he's is all about supporting programs that put children first, not the administrators.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

What, exactly, do the tax

What, exactly, do the tax cuts to the 'millionaires' consist of, and who are these so called 'millionaires'?

Betty Davies's picture

Milionaires and their special tax breaks

Millionaires have an income of $1 million or more per year. Tax breaks for millionaires have been "justified" by Republicans on the grounds that millionaires create jobs. However, the sky-high unemployment rates across the country reveal that this policy failed spectacularly.

Some examples of millionaires' tax breaks are found below:

http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2011/03/22/152322/estate-tax-vs-middle... "conservative efforts in twelve states to shift the tax burden onto the middle class even while cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy. In three states, conservatives are going even further, proposing massive estate tax cuts for millionaires even as income inequality is at its worse since the 1920s... Tea Party Gov. Paul LePage’s (I) tax reform package would raise the state’s estate tax exemption from $1 million to $2 million — allowing four hundred of the state’s wealthiest estates to escape taxation. At the same time, the tax plan would raise property taxes on middle class Mainers while freezing health care funding for working parents, cutting money for schools, and raising the retirement age for public workers. Republican legislators want to go even further, and are currently considering eliminating the estate tax altogether."

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/12/02/opinion/unemployment-vs-tax-cuts/: "Are we going to extend tax cuts for the rich, giving millionaires an average tax break of over $100,000? Or are we going to continue unemployment benefits of about $245 a week for out-of-work Americans?” Rep. Chellie Pingree asked on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday."

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2012/04/hunger_games.html: In terms of the federal government, In April "the Senate held a much-publicized vote on the “Buffett Rule,” a basic measure of fairness that would ensure millionaires don’t pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries. Conservatives dismiss this proposal as a distraction, scoffing at the fact that it would raise only $47 billion in new revenue over 10 years. That’s actually a lowball estimate. The Buffett Rule legislation authored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) is expected to raise more than three times that amount, or at least $160 billion, because the number that Buffett Rule opponents cite assumes that all the Bush tax cuts expire, which would result in more than $800 billion in revenue over the next decade from high-income households... Even more telling is the fact that conservatives dismiss these sums as paltry while they are taking a knife to nutrition assistance in the name of reducing the deficit... the House Committee on Agriculture released its own proposal to find budget savings. Rather than focus on subsidies to large agribusiness under their jurisdiction at a time of high farm profits, the committee decided that kids, the elderly, the working poor, and people with disabilities should bear the brunt of deficit reduction."

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Your post referenced tax cuts

Your post referenced tax cuts to millionaires as they related to LePage's 'priorities'. I asked you who these Maine millionaires were and what their 'tax breaks' consisted of. You did not answer that.

Betty Davies's picture

Their names?!

I described estate tax breaks in my comment. I don't know the millionaires' names. Do you? Perhaps you know them all intimately, and support their quest for special treatment...

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

You are addressing things on

You are addressing things on a national level. You posted that children were being uneducated and Head Start people would be laid off while LePage was giving tax breaks to millionaires.
I'll ask you again; who are the so called Maine millionaires who are getting these tax breaks from Governor LePage and what do these 'breaks' consist of? If your answer is you don't know, that's fine, but how can you make that statement without any factual back-up? If it was merely an opinion, that's fine too, but your opinion was accusatory towards Gov. LePage. Shouldn't there be some factual substance to it? Not giving a hard time, Betty. Just trying to understand.

Betty Davies's picture

Tax rates

The 2011 state budget actually increased taxes on those who can least afford it and gave huge windfalls to those who need it least. In Maine, the poorest twenty percent of households pay 17.06 percent of their income in state and local taxes, the middle twenty percent pay 11.68 percent and the richest one percent pays 9.99 percent – a pattern that is true in all states.Last year Maine passed a budget that lowered the top marginal rate from 8.5 percent to 7.95 percent. The budget also doubled Maine’s estate tax exemption from $1 million to $2 million for an individual. These changes were paid for in part by a 20 percent reduction in Maine’s property tax relief program. The income and estate tax provisions included in last year’s budget will reduce revenues by $393 million in the next biennium.
The LD 849 bill was designed to ratchet down Maine’s top income tax rate gradually to 4 percent.

http://mattw.bangordailynews.com/2012/03/12/business/should-maine-tax-th... A new report from the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, supports the concept of raising taxes on wealthy taxpayers in Maine to help the state’s budget woes.There’s a lot of politicized rhetoric about what could happen if states moderately raise their tax rates for their wealthiest citizens,” said economist Jeffrey Thompson, the report author, in a Monday release. “But the reality, based on very clear data, is that the end result will be more revenue in the state coffers to pay for public services. None of the scare stories — people fleeing the state, people stopping work, or not starting new businesses — have been shown to happen in the past, or are likely to happen now. Wealthy households have reaped vast benefits from state and federal tax codes for decades now, and to look to them now for much-needed revenue is sound policy.”


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