BETHEL — High state valuations and a virtual lack of carryover funds for Regional School Unit 44 promises to cause big budget problems in this district of about 900 youngsters.

The district learned this week that it will lose nearly $1 million in General Purpose Aid to Education in fiscal year 2010-11, compared to 2009-10.

State aid to the district has declined steadily — from $2.4 million it received in fiscal year 2008-09, to $1.7  million in 2009-10, to $660,690 in 2010-11.

“Valuation is the key piece. Support for the school needs to shift to local money,” Superintendent David Murphy said.

He said at least four of the five district towns have had property values increase, something many other towns in Western Maine have not.

He said valuations in RSU 44 towns for fiscal year 2010-11 have risen almost 10 percent, while the average state valuation rose just over 3 percent. 

“These are big numbers,” he said.

These reductions may also be affected by the end of federal stimulus money set for fiscal year 2011-12.

The school board will decide at its meeting Monday at 7 p.m. at Crescent Park Elementary School whether Murphy should develop a two- or three-year plan to deal with the expected ongoing reduction in state aid. That plan could include closings several facilities and eliminating positions or programs.

The district has three elementary schools: Andover with 35 students; Woodstock with about 85; and Crescent Park in Bethel with about 300 pupils. The Bethel school is large enough to accommodate all elementary students, Murphy said.

An ad hoc committee studying all district buildings is expected to report to the board by April.

Murphy, however, is expected to return to the board on Feb. 22 to present some recommendations.

“In that proposal, everything has to be considered,” he said.

The board will work on the school budget during the next few months, adopt it in May and hold a referendum on it June 8.

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