Officials hear school budget presentation

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PARIS — Superintendent Mark Eastman told town officials Wednesday night that the Oxford Hills School District Board of Directors hope to achieve a $2.2 million budget reduction without a tax impact to residents.

“We need to figure this out without going to the taxpayers,” Eastman said to almost two dozen town and school officials from the school district’s eight towns during an hour-long budget presentation at the Paris Elementary School.

Town managers and selectmen joined members of the Board of Directors to review how the school district’s Budget Committee and ultimately the Board of Directors will meet unprecedented state revenue losses on a sustainable level without dramatically affecting student programs.

“You’re looking at a budget with very little flexibility,” Eastman said. The Budget Committee is expected to present the final budget numbers to the Board of Directors in April.

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While a final budget number for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, is not yet available, what is known at this time is that the district must cut $2.2 million this coming fiscal year and a projected additional $2 million in the following year.

To do this without affecting taxes or decimating school programs, Eastman told officials the committee is looking at as two-tier approach that combines both short-term strategies, such as putting off some maintenance, and long-term strategies, such as implementing a cluster elementary model.

The model, which has been presented to residents in all eight towns, would maintain elementary schools, but reduce principal positions by 2.5.

For example, one cluster would include the Rowe Elementary School in Norway with Waterford and Harrison elementary schools. Rowe would retain a principal and assistant principal while Waterford and Harrison schools would share a principal. Waterford’s fifth and sixth-grade students would be transported to the Rowe Elementary School.

The elementary cluster model would, in part, help equalize class size, said Assistant Superintendent Rick Colpitts. Colpitts said the model would allow the discontinuance of the Legion School and portable classrooms in Otisfield, but maintain a school in each community along with art, music and physical education in all grades. Other changes include sending fifth- and sixth-grade students in some of the smaller schools to the larger anchor school in the cluster.

If this cluster model is implemented, officials say the savings would be $210,000 in administrative costs and $423,00 in instructional costs.

Some form of clustering may also be recommended at the secondary level reducing the administrators to one principal, one technical assistant and two assistant principals at the middle- and high-school levels.

The savings could be $120,000 at the middle school; $400,000 at the high school and $187,000 in technical programs.

Other targeted reductions include maintenance and facilities costs, $230,000; co-curricular and extra-curricular activity costs, $65,000; technology costs, $37,000; health-service costs, $50,000 and central office administration costs, $150,000.

ldixon@sunjournal.com

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