NEW GLOUCESTER – A five-member budget advisory panel of local citizens on Wednesday endorsed SAD 15’s budget proposal for 2004-05 at $17,250,281.

The school board is expected to approve that figure next Wednesday to pave the way for voters approval at a referendum style vote in Gray and New Gloucester on June 8.

The Budget Advisory Committee in its recommendation said, “We were impressed with the work that went into the document. For the first time in recent memory, we have an administration that conducted a five-year review of many cost centers to ascertain MSAD 15’s actual expenses.”

SAD 15 spends less per student than the recommended state average. In addition, the district spends less per student than all of the surrounding communities. Yet students continue to attain average and in some cases, slightly above average scores.

One new program, a full day kindergarten initiative, drew supporters and opponents. Four members of the board say they do not support the initiative.

The new kindergarten program will cost $188,019 by hiring 3.5 teachers and two educational technicians and purchasing supplies and equipment.

The district faces revenue declines in state subsidy and fewer tuition students and special education tuition. The lost revenues total $177,847.

Gray’s share of the budget is $6,239,175 and New Gloucester’s share is $3,208,394. The tax impact to Gray is an increase of 8.12 percent and new Gloucester at 2.15 percent.

In other business, air quality studies are under way at Dunn Elementary School in New Gloucester, which has 449 students.

The former Pineland Center hospital building was converted into a school in the late 1990s when Maine’s Legislature awarded the building to the district with 20 acres of land for $1.

SAD 15 Business Manager Terry Towle said a complaint regarding air quality, flies and health problems in a specific classroom resulted in air tests in all rooms for carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, relative humidity and temperature.

A staff member was examined by an occupational health medical doctor.

Mold tests were also taken in one classroom. Thirteen classrooms were discovered to have no exhaust outlets in rooms. Test results are pending, but higher levels of carbon dioxide may require providing better exhaust systems. More mold tests are under way.

The board learned that the contractor who renovated the building has filed for bankruptcy.

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