SAD 17 budget airing set

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OXFORD – A public hearing is scheduled for May 30 for SAD 17 voters to comment about the district’s $33.9 million budget for fiscal 2007.

The hearing will be held at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris beginning at 7 p.m.

Residents will vote on the budget June 13.

SAD 17 board members said they are optimistic about the budget going forward since the district will receive more funding in the coming fiscal year from the state’s Essential Programs and Services account.

“I’m pleased with it; I think it’s going in the right direction,” SAD 17 Chairman Dale Piirainen said Wednesday. “I’m hopeful we can do even better next year with improved state funding.”

The SAD 17 board unanimously approved the budget at a regular meeting Monday after a formal presentation by the district’s Budget Committee.

The $33.9 million budget represents an increase in the district’s operating budget of 5.2 percent from last year, minus debt service.

Funding to SAD 17 under the state’s EPS model increased by $2,270,434, although $1.16 million of that is earmarked for debt on the new Paris Elementary School, scheduled to open in late February 2007.

Still, the district will get more than $1 million in new state money in fiscal year 2007, which begins July 1, 2006. That compares to SAD 17’s gain of only $226,148 this fiscal year.

SAD 17 Superintendent Mark Eastman said last month that the higher EPS allocation in fiscal 2007 means about 70 percent of cuts will be restored, including library hours at the middle and high schools, a half-time gifted and talented teacher, educational field trips, and money for new textbooks and learning materials.

EPS is a complex method of distributing state aid. The state calculates the amount that each school system should spend to provide a basic education and awards money from there.

In fiscal 2006, EPS was funded at only 84 percent. The funding shortfall to SAD 17 forced the district to cut various educational resources. However EPS will be funded at 90 percent this coming fiscal year.

The state’s goal is to fully fund EPS in 2009.

Three of the eight towns in SAD 17 will have to pay a bigger slice of the budget pie this year because EPS is not fully funded. Harrison, Hebron and Otisfield will pay more dollars toward the budget because their assessments increased. Until the EPS funding level increases beyond 90 percent, the eight communities will see tax rate reductions, but not all of them will see their assessments decrease.

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