SALEM TOWNSHIP – A concerned parent addressed the SAD 58 Board of Directors and Superintendent Quenten Clark at Thursday’s budget meeting about the amount proposed for teachers’ pay.

“We’re going into negotiations with teachers, and we’re cutting it by $100,000,” said Kingfield resident Merv Wilson. “If this passes as it is now, are we going to lay off teachers?”

Clark said the board was in negotiations with teachers and he couldn’t comment on whether any would be laid off. Negotiations are conducted in private with the Mt. Abram Teachers’ Association, he said.

Residents from the district’s five towns approved $3.5 million for regular instruction.

Clark said this year’s school budget had increased by about $300,000 due to changes in the state’s accounting system for schools. Revenue is required to be included and a large portion of it is tuition, which has increased, Clark said.

Earlier this year, the district had its subsidy reduced by $68,000 due to a state budget shortfall. Then, federal stimulus funds became available and the state chose to reduce its contribution to education below the mandated 55 percent and use stimulus to make up the difference.

Also, Clark said, state aid was reduced by about $125,000 because SAD 58 did not consolidate operations with another school system as mandated by Maine’s school consolidation law. He noted that the Legislature recently passed a bill delaying such penalties to schools by one year. Gov. John Baldacci has not signed the bill.

Amounts approved

Strong resident Rupert Pratt made a motion to amend the school administration amount from $748,557 to $700,000.

“My point is, we are presently spending more money for administration than what the state allows,” Pratt said. “We can reduce administrative costs without hurting our students.”

Clark noted that SAD 58 spends more money on administration than the state funding formula calls for. However, due to the distance between schools, it is necessary to have more administrators.

The formula “really doesn’t fit rural Maine,” Clark said.

He said SAD 58 had made a push to cut administrative costs by having teaching principals at the Strong, Stratton and Kingfield schools next year. Clark will take on some of the principal’s duties at Phillips Elementary School in addition to being superintendent next year, which will further reduce costs.

Voters approved the $748,557 amount.

The 75 residents approved $1.49 million for special education; $167,707 for other instruction; $940,494 for student and staff support; $298,237 for system administration; $784,965 for transportation and buses; $1.67 million for facilities and maintenance; and $90,228 for adult education, with $35,000 as the local share.

The fiscal 2009-10 budget totals $10 million. Last year’s budget was $9.83 million.

After many years of increasing school taxes, Eustis’ share will decrease this year, while Avon, Phillips, Kingfield and Strong pay more. However, Eustis will still raise the most local money for education.

State valuation for SAD 58 towns rose dramatically, overall. Combined with lower enrollments, the state aid allocation was cut by $211,000.

The district-wide referendum to validate the spending plan approved Thursday will take place in all five SAD 58 towns on June 16.

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