At Monday’s School Board meeting, SAD 44 Superintendent David Murphy presented a summary of the preliminary draft budget for fiscal year 2016, including a breakdown by ‘cost center.’

The budget totals $10,663,374, an increase of $99,149, or less than one percent, over the previous fiscal year’s budget of $10,564,225.

Murphy also distributed a historical comparison of budgets for the past decade illustrating that, while there have been only small increases in each of the past ten years, the amount of the local share has increased sharply due to losses in state aid.

“Taxpayers have had to make up over $2.5 million in lost state aid. Any increases in school taxes during that time have largely been due to this loss of funding,” he said.

“The Finance Committee is working with similar challenges again this year. The draft budget that you will see tonight is up by just nine-tenths of one percent, yet it does provide some new opportunities for our students.”

SAD 44 is expected to lose nearly $400,000 in state aid this year, the biggest single-year decrease since the drop of nearly $1 million between fiscal years 2010 and 2011. The projected amount of state aid for 2015-2016 is just $182,269, Murphy said.

“The latest loss in state aid will more than offset the anticipated savings from no longer being responsible for the operation of the Andover Elementary School,” he said.

Each of the 11 cost centers in the budget includes salary and benefit increases to which the district has previously committed through negotiations with the various unions representing SAD 44 employees. Some cost centers will see substantial increases, while others will decrease.

Special education instruction costs are expected to increase by nearly 20 percent, or more than $180,000, despite the elimination of one teaching position due to the consolidation of caseloads.

Murphy said an additional $115,000 is being earmarked for special education out-of-district placement, which he described as a “last resort” for educating students with special needs, but one which can place a heavy burden on school districts.

The student support cost center will increase by approximately $80,000 in order to upgrade the laptop computers used by high school and grade six students.

Other factors driving the budget include increased legal fees related to withdrawal negotiations, full funding of a business office position, and funding for Secondary Learning Alternatives, which includes the collaborative program between Telstar and CMCC as well as on-line course opportunities.

Cost centers for school administration, transportation, and buildings and grounds will all see decreases in the budget for next year.

Murphy said Maintenance and Transportation Supervisor Ron Deegan had been able to lock in prices for heating oil and diesel fuel earlier than usual, and at lower rates.

The Finance Committee has been meeting regularly to work on the budget, and the next two School Board meetings, April 27 at Crescent Park School and May 11 at Andover Elementary School, will be largely devoted to budget workshops.

Murphy said the financial impact of the draft budget to the individual towns has not yet been calculated.

Appointments and resignations

Murphy announced the following appointments: John Eliot, THS head baseball coach; Ryan Kimball, THS JV baseball coach; Jim Lunney, THS head softball coach; Mark Kenney, THS JV softball coach; David LeClerc and Willow Ochtera, THS head track coaches; Tim O’Connor, TMS head baseball coach; Scott Underhill, TMS head softball coach; Linda Cozzolino, TMS JV softball coach; Steve Pelletier, TMS head track coach; Rachel Duclos, TMS assistant track coach.

Maisey Griffin and Meryl Kelly were appointed as advisors to the GOT Farms program to fill out the remainder of the current school year.

Murphy said he had received the resignation of TMS Guidance Counselor Richard Curley, who, prior to the current school year, served as principal of Andover Elementary School.

Curley’s resignation, for personal reasons, was effective March 31. Murphy said the position is being advertised, as is the TMS special education position recently vacated by Cindy Savage.

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