FARMINGTON — Regional School Unit 9 directors will begin discussions Tuesday on a preliminary budget of $33.5 million for 2016-17. The package includes all requests and needs from administrators and department heads.

The regular board meeting begins at 6 p.m. March 8 in The Forum at Mt. Blue Campus on Seamon Road. Budget discussion will follow. 

This year, the Budget Committee is comprised of the entire school board instead of an ad hoc Budget Committee.

The preliminary spending plan, which is expected to be reduced by the time it goes to voters, represents a $1.5 million increase — about 4.7 percent — from the current $32 million plan.

Superintendent Tom Ward said last week that the goal is to have an increase of less than 3.3 percent.

The past two budgets have had about a $1 million increase each year.

The board will not be able to make reductions or increases until all lines of cost centers are reviewed.

“If we take out just increases for special education, it is a 2.14 percent increase,” he said.

The district is set up to bill MaineCare for services it provides to students in the special education program.

This is the first year that all staff is in place for MaineCare billing purposes. District staff will review what the district may get this year in reimbursement to see if revenue will be brought in.

The revenue for this year would be used to offset unexpected costs in the Special Education Program. The district budgeted for four students that needed services provided by programs outside the district, and nine students needed placement. Those programs run from $50,000 to $100,000 annually, Ward said last year.

If efforts for reimbursement prove positive this year, the district is hoping that money that would come from billing in the next school year will cover most of the increases in special education, Ward said.

Review on Tuesday will begin with elementary, secondary, districtwide and bilingual instruction. It is unknown how far the board will get following a lengthy regular business meeting agenda.

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The preliminary package includes all requests and needs from administrators and department heads.

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