RUMFORD – SAD 43 Superintendent Jim Hodgkin said each budget development year has been tough since he took over leadership five years ago, but this year promises to be the worst.

“We may have to add more meetings for the budget. It’s a pretty lean year,” he said.

Among items that will impact the final figure the board sends to voters in June are those dealing with the Region 9 School of Applied Technology’s $4.9 million addition and renovation project.

The figures aren’t in yet, but Hodgkin said his district will likely see a major increase in its share of $200,000 to $300,000. Region 9 director Brenda Gammon and the superintendents of the three sending districts have been meeting to discuss vocational program offerings, Hodgkin said.

Also having a major impact is the amount of Medicaid money the district is reimbursed from the state for special education costs.

Special education director Paula Leavitt said most of the services the district now bills for will become ineligible if President George Bush’s recommendation is passed.

She said state Commissioner of Education Susan Gendron is asking for a two-year moratorium. If that doesn’t come through, the district is set to lose nearly $200,000 in the coming school year.

Under the state’s push to merge school systems to cut administrative costs, state aid for special education is scheduled to be cut by 10 percent, and central office reimbursement by 40 to 50 percent, effective in the 2008-2009 budget year.

Also expected to present a challenge to the development of the budget is bus replacement costs, Hodgkin said.

“Administrators need to scrutinize their budgets. If money is put in for something, they must articulate why it is needed, particularly for equipment,” he said.

“The board’s job is to set the bottom line and set priorities and to come up with a budget that is acceptable to the taxpayers,” Hodgkin said.

The 2007-2008 budget is $14.8 million. All undesignated expenses have been frozen for much of the school year in an attempt to keep costs down.

The 2008-2009 budget process will likely begin at the Feb. 25 meeting when enrollment figures and a general sense of all educational programs offered within the district will be presented.

The board will also meet March 4, 17 and 24 to work on the budget as well as to act on routine school board business.

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