PARIS — Superintendent Rick Colpitts will present the SAD 17 Budget Committee with a 2 percent budget increase proposal when members meet this week to continue its attempt to whittle down a preliminary $41.3 million FY20 budget.

The Budget Committee has begun its arduous task of reviewing projected revenues and expenses, identifying cost center increases and other issues in the FY20 preliminary budget prepared by Colpitts and Business Manager Cathy Coffey.

At least five drafts, using different amounts of projected cuts, have been developed so far. Budget Committee members were presented with a budget of $41,365,724 – a 4.6 percent increase – as a starting point at the March 20 budget meeting. They asked to see another budget proposal reflecting a 2 percent increase at its meeting on March 27.

While the numbers are still fluid, Colpitts said it’s probable that all of the eight district towns may see some sort of increased local assessment for its share of public education, but it is far too early to determine what those numbers will end up being.

The committee has also asked to look more closely at specific budget areas such as Special Education, which is asking for a 9.8 percent hike – due in large part to state and federal mandates.

“Everything’s on the table. Everything,” Colpitts told the SAD 17 Budget Committee and about a dozen local town officials and residents who appeared at the March 20 Budget Committee meeting.

Colpitts said despite budgeting $1.8 million over the Essential Programs and Services formula, the local share continues to take a hit because of shifts in the way the $1.1 billion General Purpose Aid state funding is distributed.

Colpitts said all indications are that the recently released state subsidies will likely remain firm. The only deviation, he said, could be a proposal to increase starting teacher salaries from $30,000 to $40,000 and if that passes, more state assistance will be added to school district share of state funding.

School officials say no matter which way they cut the FY20 budget, unresolved local health insurance costs and contract negotiations will likely increase any proposed budget by as much as $1.2 million.

The proposed project to replace the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School roof will not likely impact the FY20 budget because existing debt is being retired, he said.

MVR 11 increase

Part of the overall SAD 17 budget is the proposed $3.7 million MVR 11 (Oxford Hills Technical School) budget which shows a 75 percent increase in SAD 17 ‘s share.

Director Shawn Lambert said despite that increase, program budgets and instructional salaries have actually decreased in the proposed budget. The budget must still be approved by the MVR 11 Board of Directors at its meeting in April.

Lambert unveiled his proposed $3,698,115 FY 20 budget to the SAD 17 Board of Directors at its March 18 board meeting. It will be voted on by SAD 17 voters as a separate budget item during the budget hearing/meeting on June 6, but become part of the overall SAD 17 budget number which is voted on as a straight “yes” or “no” at the June 11 referendum.

“There is a high jump, percentage-wise, for FY 20. Despite that, we have actually reduced our program budgets and instructional salaries,” said Lambert.

Under the new Essential and Programs Services funding for technical schools, the amount of money the state is allocating the local technical school has decreased by about $60,000 in FY20. Most career and technical schools in Maine are experiencing a decrease in state funding, he said.

Lambert said the increase in the preliminary FY20 budget is due to a number of factors including administrative health insurance costs and the need to pay 40 percent of the interest for FY 20 that has been assessed to MVR 11 by SAD 17 for its roof replacement project. The project was approved by the SAD 17 Board of Directors at its March 18 meeting.

“There is no mechanism in the EPS (Essential Programs and Servces) funding formula to pay for capital improvements so they must be paid locally,” Lambert said.

“The amount of local assessment has fluctuated wildly in the last three years since the Department of Education has implemented the EPS funding formula for CTE  schools,” Lambert told the Advertiser Democrat. That amount was $3,130,941 in FY18, $129,494 in FY 19, and is proposed to be $227,089 for FY20.

“These variances will eventually level out to something more stable but until the EPS formula has been in place for a few years there will likely be variation,” he said.

Budget prep continues

Committeeman Barry Patrie said he did not want to make any cuts that would weaken the attempts over the last two years to strengthen student achievement in the classroom, but other members said it may be time to look at personnel cuts and other way to make substantial cuts to reduce the impact on local towns.

Committee members were told that the special education account is showing a 17 percent increase. The increase comes primarily from $223,000 more spent in out of district placements for students whose special need services could not be met in-house.

“My fear is there is nothing to stop the roll on it,” Natalie Andrews said of the special education increasing costs.

The budget numbers are expected to continue to shift in the days ahead as Colpitts prepares to unveil his FY20 budget to the full Board of Directors for adoption at the May 6 board meeting.

While committee members were provided a budget last week based on a 4.6 percent increase (which was a 3.48 increase budget to budget) Colpitts agreed there was more cutting to be done.

“I still think that’s probably not where we want to be,” said Colpitts

While he called the classroom the “sacred cow” and the last area he wants to make cuts in, Colpitts conceded that everything may have to be on the table.

Public hearings are expected to be held in another week or so to inform residents about the budget plan.

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