Cuts hinge on insurance choice

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DIXFIELD – About $94,000 worth of requests culled to create SAD 21’s proposed $9.84 million school budget could be restored pending a teachers’ union vote next week.

To try to resolve a health insurance dilemma, Superintendent Thomas Ward said Thursday afternoon that he will meet with the Cancardix teachers union Monday afternoon.

Should union members stick with Aetna Insurance Co., the cuts would not be restored.

However, if Cancardix agrees to switch to Anthem Insurance Co., the board would ultimately decide which cuts to reinstate at its monthly meeting later that night.

“Aetna has consistently had big increases rapidly, but Anthem hasn’t,” Ward said.

Increasing insurance costs and negotiated salaries, combined with major hikes in diesel fuel and heating oil prices, resulted in a $450,000 increase in the 2006-07 budget over last year’s budget, he said.

Should the union decide to stay with Aetna, the proposed budget would be $9,842,750. If it doesn’t, Ward said he would recommend that directors restore the following eliminated requests:

• New classroom furniture in SAD 21’s four schools: Dixfield and Peru elementary, Dirigo Middle and High.

• $10,000 to clear the bus garage lot at the middle school.

• $5,000 of the requested $10,000 for music tutors.

• A half-time bus mechanic.

• $10,000 of the $50,000 pared from the technology department.

Additionally, Ward said he just learned that directors have to find money to hire another education technician III at Dixfield Elementary School due to two incoming kindergarten students who will require the staff person.

Directors already cut a request for one ed tech III for the elementary school, but that was for a different position.

Other cuts included in the $235,304 total pared, were:

• At Dixfield Elementary – $17,000 for new entrance tile, and a cab for the tractor.

• At the middle school – a half-time secretary, and new hallway carpeting in the gym and science areas.

• At Dirigo High School – a physical education/health teacher, a half-time education technician III for study hall, new gym curtains, and air conditioning for the library.

• $30,000 in the special education department for out-of-district placing for special needs students for day school.

Regarding the proposed budget, $3,360,764 must be raised locally. Possible assessments are:

• Canton, $532,460 (down $15,729 from last year)

• Carthage, $245,567 (up $12,958 from last year)

• Dixfield, $1,374,407 (down $34,604)

• Peru, $1,208,330 (up $35,368)

Ward said Carthage’s and Peru’s assessments increased because their state valuations jumped: Peru by $8 million; Carthage, by $2 million.

But, overall, the proposed assessments represent a drop of .06 percent over last year’s assessment of $3,362,771, he added.

Regarding the negotiated salaries increase, Ward said directors have “been doing a good job of trying to increase them incrementally, and, to stay competitive.”

“That (increase) puts us in pretty good shape of meeting what the governor is requesting for the minimum salary for teachers, that of $27,000 for next year and $30,000 for the following year,” Ward said.

The Legislature is working on the teacher salaries proposal.

The district is in its second year of a three-year contract with Cancardix, and in either the first or second year with other groups with whom the board negotiates, Ward said.

Directors are also anticipating a $531,000 increase in state funding “to help us cover the built-in (budget) increase, and to have a little left over to meet additional staffing and facility needs.”

“It’s not set in stone, but we’re supposed to get an official printout soon,” Ward added.

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