SALEM TOWNSHIP – SAD 58 and the town of Eustis continued their negotiations Thursday night to separate later this year.

During the meeting at Mt. Abram High School, SAD 58 directors and Superintendent Brenda Stevens reviewed a preliminary budget that shows the remaining four towns, Avon, Phillips, Kingfield and Strong, will see a potential budget reduction of $883,937. Residents in those towns had expressed concern that the loss of the tax dollars and Department of Education subsidies would force the four towns to make up the difference with higher taxes after Eustis leaves the district.

“This budget is based on last year’s numbers,” Superintendent Brenda Stevens told the directors, staff and audience.

SAD 58 directors met with legal counsel in executive session for 90 minutes after the 6:30 p.m. meeting began. After reconvening, both sides reviewed a draft revision that includes more of the financial details that directors requested. Stevens noted that the district’s outstanding debt for the Stratton School construction in Eustis can be retired only by the district, whether or not Eustis was included.

The revised draft proposal suggests that Eustis could continue to pay its share each month directly to the district. The remaining debt includes $285,000 in principal and $14,487.50 in interest. The Maine Department of Education will pay Eustis’ share of construction cost obligation for the Strong Elementary School construction debt.

The modified draft proposal requires the new Eustis School Administrative Unit to pay its share of the three-year contract SAD 58 signed with Superintendent Brenda Stevens. That amount includes 32.28 percent of her annual salary and benefits from June 13, 2013, until the end of her contract in 2014.

The preliminary budget numbers suggest that SAD 58 will be able to pass savings on to the remaining four towns in 2013. Included in the budget line was a reduction of $17,500 for the district’s Adult Education program. The new Eustis School Administrative Unit will pay SAD 58 tuition and special education costs for students who attend SAD 58 schools. SAD 58 proposes in the newest draft agreement to transfer three buses to Eustis.

Strong director Marc Edwards expressed concern about the perception that the district “keeps asking taxpayers for more money.” The district has instead asked for less money, he said, but they have been receiving less each year to help pay for costs in the rural district.

“Taxes may go up due to loss of revenue sharing and other factors out of our control,” he said.

Edwards said the board can’t be held responsible either for lowering or increasing the tax burden on property owners in the district.

“I think we need to contact our senators and legislators about this,” he said. “We have all this concern, and I think it’s incumbent on all of us to contact them.”

Information Box

Preliminary summary of reduced SAD 58 costs for 2013-14 school year without Eustis in the district: $883,937

Regular instruction: $505, 115

Special education: $64, 524

Other instruction: $10, 376

Student and staff support: $39,363

System administration: $1,000

School administration: $48,663

Transportation and buses: $49,999

Facilities and maintenance: $164,897

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