NORWAY – Officials from the eight SAD 17 towns will meet with school officials Wednesday night for a preliminary overview of the fiscal 2009 budget.

“Hopefully we’ll have a little more information out of Augusta,” Superintendent Mark Eastman said of state budget figures that change daily.

Officials from Harrison, Hebron, Oxford, Otisfield, Norway, Paris, Waterford and West Paris will meet at 7 p.m. at the Rowe Elementary School on Main Street in Norway to hear the latest budget projections.

“We’ll try to project what will be our financial picture,” Eastman said of the first of a series of budget hearings that will take place before the June 10 referendum. “It may be premature, but we’ll give the most accurate financial picture available,” he said.

The SAD 17 Budget Committee has been developing a spending plan for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, but Eastman said those numbers could change even as late as hours before the evening presentation.

This year’s budget was $35.4 million.

Several weeks ago, Eastman outlined a preliminary budget to SAD 17 directors. Preliminary expense projections have increased by $1.8 million and additional reductions are anticipated in transportation, special education, facilities and district administration.

Eastman said at that time that the expenditure outlook showed health insurance costs increasing by 10 percent, or $250,000; electricity, diesel fuel and heating oil costs increasing by 40 percent, or $170,000; and negotiated cost-of-living increases for staff total $750,000.

Eastman told directors that at that point it appeared there would be no money for program expansions or new projects and some personnel reductions are likely but still under review.

The preliminary budget does contain money to continue the elementary foreign language program, and pay the 60 percent of the assistant superintendent’s salary, security upgrades at the middle and high schools and window replacements at Agnes Gray School in West Paris.

The Budget Committee’s next meeting will be with Oxford and Otisfield residents on April 8 and Norway and Paris residents on April 9.

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