LIVERMORE FALLS — Regional School Unit 73 Superintendent Kenneth Healey met with Livermore officials Tuesday night to discuss factors that may impact the 2016-17 school budget.

Among them are the loss of 300 jobs at Verso Corp.’s Androscoggin Mill in Jay, the district’s sick leave buyback program, possibly reconfiguring the grades at two elementary schools and the number of retiring teachers. 

“The administrative team has been tasked with providing as much reduction as possible without destroying the educational program,” Healey said. He said he would fight to keep academic programs over co-curricular activities.

School board directors Cindy Young, Holly Richards and Mark Holt, Selectmen Megan Dion and Tom Gould, and Administrative Assistant Carrie Castonguay listened to Healey’s presentation as the district prepares for its next school budget. It was held at the superintendent’s office in Livermore Falls.

The district includes the towns of Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls. 

The layoffs at the Verso mill may impact Jay’s valuation and affect the RSU 73 assessments for Livermore and Livermore Falls.

Another factor is the district’s buyback program for sick leave. Retiring teachers with less than 15 years of tenure are eligible for up to $4,500. Those with more service are eligible for considerably more, depending on their contract, Healey said.

Several veteran teachers may retire this year, but Healey said he doesn’t know the exact number.

Money for bleachers and an elevator were in the 2015-16 budget but they were paid for by other means and cost less than expected, the superintendent said. That  unspent money will be used to reduce the upcoming budget, he said.

Options to reduce the budget, he said, are not filling vacancies, changing the district’s two elementary schools and technology.

Not filling positions, “equates to less attention,” Healey said. “Not enough teacher time leads to long-term academic deficiencies.”

He said three or four fewer teachers would be needed if one elementary school housed pre-kindergarten, first and second grades, and the other elementary school housed third, fourth and fifth grades.

“We’ll see what support or opposition there is to it,” Healey said. “If there is opposition, it may come with a cost.”  

The district’s computers are also being studied and alternatives are being considered.

Gould said he is concerned about school costs because the town has fewer students than other towns. About one-fifth of the district’s students are from Livermore.

Gould said only 28 cents of every tax dollar is available for town needs.

“We’re in a financial perfect storm,” Gould said.

Dion said she worries about the town’s elderly, many of whom are on fixed incomes.

“They didn’t expect this,” she said. She asked what impact families moving out of the area might have.

Healey said fewer families would make the process easier.

Livermore resident Dwight Hines said the district has a great graduation rate. He suggested grants to offset costs but was told maintaining programs once grants expire has been challenging.

Another suggestion was alliances with universities.

“Music, art and programs such as robotics are a big part of keeping kids in school,” Hines said. 

“We can cut, but there will be a negative impact,” Healey said.

Healey encouraged voters to attend the 2016-17 budget meetings and ask questions.

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