Round table leader: Work together on SAD 17 budget


PARIS — Board of Selectmen Chairman Sam Elliot said this week that everyone will have to work together to solve the growing school funding situation in Oxford Hills.

The remark comes several weeks after he refused to recognize the chairman of the Oxford Hills School District Board of Directors at a round table of selectmen and budget committee members from SAD 17 towns. The discussion focused on the impact of the preliminary 2013-14 school budget on their communities. The Dec. 20 round table was arranged by Elliot.

“We’re all in this together,” he said this week. “We need to know what’s going on. We have to work together on this.”

Elliot is set to preside over a second budget discussion with state legislators and town officials. It’s scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 23 in the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School Forum in Paris.

School Superintendent Rick Colpitts presented a preliminary budget in December that reflects an average 10.99 percent increase, or $1,864,089, in local assessments from this fiscal year.

School officials say unless legislators agree to waive the state’s minimum local required share for education spending, taxpayers in the Oxford Hills School District may have to raise an additional $1.8 million for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2013. Assessments for the towns of Paris, Norway, Oxford, Otisfield, Harrison, Waterford, Hebron and West Paris could increase from 8.41 percent in Harrison to as much as 15.17 percent in Otisfield.

Last year, voters approved a $35.1 million budget with an overall 6.03 percent increase in local assessments.

Elliot, who attended the Board of Directors meeting this week to listen, said he expects the budget problems to continue for at least another year or two.

Gov. Paul LePage announced a proposed state curtailment to address a $35.5 million state budget shortfall. He has proposed a $12.5 million cut to general purpose aid to schools.

According to Colpitts, SAD 17 would get $215,946.50 less this fiscal year; $16,696,738.10 instead of $16,912,684.60. It’s a drop of 0.6 percent.

In a letter to the Oxford Hills School District Board of Directors, Colpitts said the curtailment will not impact the current fiscal year programs and services.

“The district budgeted $100,000 to offset future curtailments,” he said in his memo to the directors dated Jan. 2. “The remaining $116,000 will be covered by our budgeted contingency funds.”

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Estimated assessment increases

PARIS — If the state does not waive the state’s minimum local required share for education spending for SAD 17, the estimated increases in assessments for towns are:

Otisfield, 15.17 percent, or $290,125

Oxford, 12.46, or $359,129

Paris, 14.49 percent, or $343,600

Norway, 9.04 percent, or $285,177

Waterford, 8.77 percent, or $157,235

Hebron, 10.45 percent, or $61,418.

West Paris, 9.78 percent, or $66,961.

Harrison, 8.41 percent, or $300,444.

A districtwide spending freeze on all but health and safety issues has been implemented by school officials, and administrators have been asked to develop 2013-14 budgets that are the same as this year.

The school district Budget Committee will conduct its review from February though March and a preliminary budget is expected to be presented to directors in April.

School officials will present the budget at public meetings in the spring before the vote.

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