SAD 58 taps surplus to keep taxes flat

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SALEM TOWNSHIP — School board directors in SAD 58 voted for a budget that should keep taxes stable for the five towns in the district by using surplus money.

They started on Thursday with a proposed $10.1 million budget.

Superintendent Quenten Clark suggested cuts that totaled $158,850. Directors chose to make few of those cuts and funded two full-time and one half-time positions. They decided against combining classes in the Kingfield, Phillips and Stratton elementary schools. They allocated $14,000 in funding for seventh-grade students to attend Camp Kieve leadership program. The final budget of $9,856,130 will go before voters in three weeks.

They also approved $5,000 for the curriculum committee. Director Ann Schwink explained why the team of teachers, administrators and directors needed seed money, as well as the time and full support of the board to accomplish their goals.

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“When we fist started this curriculum committee, we spent time just looking at what the board’s role in curriculum development should be,” Schwink said.

Clark also had suggested increasing the original $500,000 from surplus by $50,000, to keep taxes stable in Strong and Phillips. Surplus funds fall into two categories. Designated surplus money must be set aside for summer salaries and other costs. Clark said funds were available but cautioned against dipping too deeply into any surplus funds at the risk of having to borrow to pay the bills.

“I’d like to see the taxpayers in Strong get a break and see some light,” Mike Pond said. “They still haven’t absorbed the increase from last year’s budget.”

After discussion, the board decided to take $650,000 from undesignated surplus, which offset the recommended cuts.

The board also funded the high school’s athletics program. Directors will continue their membership in the Western Maine Educational Collaborative, which supports regionalization. Clark said he could not predict whether the district would see its $140,000 penalty for failure to consolidate disappear, but he recommended that WMEC membership would be a wise step for the district.

The board will review the proposed budget for the public at 6:30 p.m. on May 31 at a Mt. Abram High School hearing. Strong, Phillips, Kingfield, Eustis and Avon voters will go to the polls on June 7.

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