SAD 17 Superintendent Rick Colpitts and the board of directors meet in person and via Zoom on Tuesday night to discuss budget priorities for the coming fiscal year. Video screenshot

PARIS — Superintendent Rick Colpitts told School Administrative District 17 directors Tuesday night that the priority of administrators and educators in 2021-22 is addressing learning loss resulting from the monthslong pandemic.

“Our priority is nursing, social work and providing support services for kids at risk of failing,” he said in laying out a road map for a post-COVID-19 environment.

He recommended freezing costs wherever possible and has directed principals to assess how the eight-town district may be able to adjust class sizes in the future.

“We are set with technology,” Colpitts said. “We spent $6 million on technology, books and other types of learning tools this year. And we are good with library books. We purchased more library books, 100 times more books than we would normally buy in a budgeted year. None of that was at the expense of taxpayers but through federal grants.”

Colpitts said teachers have done a wonderful job with the resources at hand this year. A next step will be a review to make sure the resources were adequate so educators can continue to improve the district’s math curriculum.

He advised that capital improvements should be deferred for the coming year, which may mean the roof ventilation system at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris will not be finished until the following year.

As far as state funding for 2021-22, Colpitts anticipates about $2.5% less than this fiscal year, which ends June 30. He told directors the Maine Department of Education will provide an updated assessment of state aid for education by the end of this week.

“The Maine DOE will share information about the governor’s proposed education budget and the word is that it will not look as bad as we anticipated,” he said. “I don’t believe it would be wise for us to plan on a 0% budget increase for taxpayers. We did that for two years in a row back in 2008 when there was a reduction in state funding, and it took 10 years to recover from that. I will propose a budget that at maximum, hopefully, a 1% increase.”

The 2020-21 budget approved by voters last June was $42.9 million.

The first budget meeting is set for Feb. 24 and continuing weekly thereafter.


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