OXFORD— The SAD 17 Budget Committee has approved preliminary $37.65 million budget for fiscal year 2014-15, a 4.5 percent overall increase in local spending.

The proposed budget was one of two considered in last week’s final committee hearings, which will now be sent to the school board for approval.

Town public hearings will begin April 15.

Major spending initiatives include raises to teachers and administrators, higher insurance payments, a employee retirement costs shifted from the state, and a new $233,000 lease payment for the South Campus of the Oxford Hills Middle School.

The increase in local spending represents a 4.75 percent budget increase from the previous fiscal year. Budgets are annually approved by voters in June.

A second plan which would have fully funded EPS called for a 5.56 percent increase over this fiscal year and local share increases of from 3.53 percent to 8.68 percent.

Instead, if approved, tax increases for the eight towns comprising the district will range from 3.53 percent in Harrison, to 6.62 percent in Oxford.

The increase in the budget and subsequent local tax increases are driven by state mandated increases in the amount of money SAD 17 spends per student, a formula derived by Maine DOE called Essential Programs and Services.

SAD 17 is in the first year of a three years plan to raise spending to 100 percent of EPS. It, along with several other school districts, was granted a three-year waiver from the requirement, which expired and was not renewed last summer.

The waiver allowed the district to keep local taxes down by – the state’s eyes essentially underfund schools.

Maine adopted the EPS model in 2004 to calculate the amount each district needed to allocate in order to provide an adequate education.

Calculations are determined by student-to-teacher ratios, supplies per student, and each districts unique demographic challenges, including special education needs and English language proficiency.

It inputs local property assessments to determine the portion local communities should pay, and the state picks up the remaining bill.

In an effort to mitigate the impact local taxes will have on towns, the state recently modified how it calculates those assessments by averaging property values over a two-year period, which will reduce tax increases in the district, depending on the town, by a percentage point or two per year.

The proposed budget is a $1.7 million increase from the past year, though school board directors to a fiveyear history in which it only represents .69 percent increase.

In 2010, voters approved a $36.5 million budget, which fell by 6.27 percent the following year and has incrementally increased over the following four years, according to a history of assessment increases provided by the district’s Business Manager, Cathey Fanjoy Coffey.

At the committees final hearing on the proposed budget, SAD 17 Superintendent Colpitts told school board directors that the plan, “was easier on tax payers, while still restoring the local share.”

Public hearings on the proposals will begin April 15 when directors meet at Oxford Elementary School for Oxford and Otisfield residents, and Guy E Rowe School for Paris and Norway.

On April 16, Hebron and West Paris residents are invited to attend a public hearing at the Hebron Station School; Harrison and Waterford residents’ meeting will be held at the Harrison Elementary School.

Meetings begin at 7 p.m.

Following residents comments, the budget committee will approve the final budget on April 30, and on May 5 the school board will adopt it. A district hearing will be held on June 5 at the high school.

The referendum vote for all eight towns goes to pills on June 10.

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