PARIS — The majority of SAD 17 Board of Directors approved a $40.9 million budget for FY 2020 at its meeting Monday night.

The $40,955.882 budget, that was unanimously recommended by the Budget Committee on April 30, represents a 2.45% increase over the last fiscal year budget of $39.7 million and an average local assessment increase to taxpayers in the eight district towns of 4.97%.

The Budget Committee’s recommendation is a decrease of about $4,000 from Superintendent Rick Colpitt’s proposed budget due to a slight reduction in the Oxford Hills Technical School portion of the budget that is assessed to SAD 17.

The proposed budget does not include subsidized costs for vocational education (Oxford Hills Technical High School) which goes directly to the vocational school. Only the expenses that exceed the subsidized part ($139,617) are included in the SAD 17 budget.

The proposed budget allows for a math coach at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School for $50,000; a middle school social worker – something recommended by the directors, or an Oxford Elementary School classroom teacher which might be mandated once kindergarten class sizes are determined for next year at $50,000; and the restoration of pre-kindergarten contracted services at $30,000.

Colpitts said it is likely that both the social worker and classroom teacher will be added by using the Contingency Fund.

The budget shows a reduction of about $169,987 in state subsidy, Colpitts said. The EPS (Essential Programs and Services) local share has decreased from 8.48 to 8.28 mills. There has also been a reduction in the percentage of economically disadvantaged students from 64% to 59% for a loss of $236,157.

About $37 million of the budget is fixed costs and 3.6 million of 8.9% is considered flexible costs, he told directors.

The budget is an average annual increase of 1% while the state subsidy is an annual decrease of about 1% over the last 10 years, said Colpitts.

Local assessments range from a high of 7.36% for West Paris taxpayers to a low of 2% for Oxford taxpayers.

Following approval of the new proposed budget, outgoing Budget Committee Chairman and SAD 17 Director Bob Jewell said that while he supported the current proposed budget he has concerns going into the future.

“Does the average taxpayer get good (educational) value for his tax dollars?” asked Jewell.

In a lengthy prepared statement, Jewell asked that future Budget Committee chairs be well versed in finances and work alongside the superintendent to prepare a new fiscal budget. As part of that process he asked directors to consider whether it makes sense to have hundreds of thousands of dollars in the Carryover Fund (currently $900,000) sitting in a bank and not being actively used to increase educational opportunities for students thereby raising their currently poor test scores.

Voters will gather at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School Forum on Thursday, June 6, beginning at 7 p.m. to act on the proposed budget. It is the only opportunity for voters in all eight district towns to act on specific line-item requests and offer amendments. Once approved, the overall budget must be validated by voters at the polls the following Tuesday on June 11.

The referendum will be a “yes”-or-“no” ballot question that will finalize action taken by voters on June 6 at the school district budget meeting. Under state law, the validation referendum must follow the district meeting and be held within 14 calendar days.

If the budget does not pass at referendum, the last budget approved by the legislative body becomes the operational budget until voters approve a budget at referendum, according to the state law passed in 2008.

In other news, the directors voted to approve:

  • the superintendent’s nomination of Jan Neureuther as director of special services
  • the superintendents nomination of Frank Britton as district bus driver.
  • field trip requests including the annual field trip requests for the Harrison Elementary, Oxford Elementary and Otisfield Community schools grade 6 students to go to Long Lake for the “Hey You” cruise on the Songo River Queen;
  • the superintendents nomination of teachers for a second and third year probationary contract for the 2019-2010 school year, and for teachers with continuing contracts.