SAD 75 budget projected to go up nearly 2 percent

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TOPSHAM — The School Administrative District 75 budget for 2018-19 could increase 1.95 percent from this year, according to a draft unveiled Monday.

Superintendent Brad Smith recommended $38 million, which will be reviewed by the Finance Committee and goes to three public forums this month.

The amount reflects a change in how the state funds vocational centers. In fiscal year 2017-18, SAD 75 received nearly $742,000 in subsidy toward students who attend the Region 10 Career and Technical Center.

The state is altering how it funds those centers next year so the subsidy, “which used to flow through our books as both a revenue and expense, will now go directly to Region 10,” Finance Director Mark Conrad said last month.

SAD 75 is projected to have a nearly $1 million loss in subsidy next year. In making an “apples to apples” comparison between subsidies for 2017-18 and 2018-19, Conrad is subtracting the $742,000 vocational center subsidy, for a loss closer to roughly $250,000.

“In essence, our assessment from Region 10 on the expense side should also go down that much,” Conrad said.

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The budget proposes $520,000 in new spending, which includes $163,000 to establish a preschool program; $108,000 for new business and human resources software; nearly $68,000 toward the lease/purchase of four additional buses; about $67,000 for a new teacher at the Williams-Cone Elementary School; nearly $42,000 to maintain a school-based health clinic; and nearly $39,000 to hire an additional English Language Development person.

Helping to offset the new costs are about $256,000 in proposed reductions, such as eliminating a special education center teaching position that is vacant for about $76,000, eliminating a special education high school position through attrition for about $67,000 — both due to a decrease in caseload — and eliminating an as-yet-undetermined teaching position for about $65,000.

The district plans to increase its out-of-district special education line by $65,000, but would meanwhile save $112,000 in staff turnover savings, thanks to retirements and resignations of longtime employees.

With revenues such as state subsidy subtracted from the proposed budget, $24.16 million is left to come from taxpayers in the four towns. Of this, Topsham could pay nearly $10.3 million, up 6.6 percent; Harpswell $7.8 million, up 0.8 percent; Bowdoin $2.9 million, up 3.5 percent; and Bowdoinham $3.1 million, up 4.9 percent.

Conrad said those are estimates and could increase 2 percent because the state has not provided a final subsidy estimate.

Public budget forums are scheduled at Harpswell Community School on Monday, March 26; Woodside Elementary School on Tuesday, March 27; and Bowdoin Central School on Thursday, March 29.

The School Board is due April 26 to approve the budget, which goes to district voters in two separate decisions on May 24 and June 12.

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