TURNER — Maine School Administrative District 52 officials started the budget process Thursday night with Superintendent Kimberly Brandt proposing a 1.77% increase over the current fiscal year budget that would have broader tax implications for Turner, Leeds and Greene.

The district is facing a nearly $500,000 drop in state subsidy after losing 90 students last fall, she said, while some costs have gone up. To make up the difference, under the proposal, the towns are looking at an overall 5.77% tax increase after staying flat last year.

Greene’s increase would be 5.3%, Turner’s 5.44% and Leeds’ 7.15%.

Included in the $28.5 million 2021-22 budget proposal:

• A new half-time prekindergarten teacher and half-time prekindergarten educational technician II at Turner Primary School, which Brandt said maintains current staffing levels since the district didn’t replace a second grade teacher who retired last August.

• An increase in out-of-district special education placements and eliminating one unfilled special education teacher position at Greene Central School.

• Getting three buses on a five-year lease-purchase arrangement, partly offset by subsidy.

• Using $555,000 from a fund balance and $516,712 in unspent funds from the current year to reduce the tax burden.

The board of directors will hold a series of budget workshops between March 11 and April 15 to review and potentially rework the proposal. The district budget vote is planned for May 6 and budget validation referendum for May 20.

Looking ahead to next fall, Brandt told the board that the district is still facing a number of questions, including whether vaccinations will move ahead efficiently, whether the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention will still require quarantining after an exposure and “will our enrollment increase back to the 2,000-plus students we have had for several years?”

“My hope is that we have all those students return to us and even a few more, and that we’re back to normal, but there are a lot of unanswered questions we’re going to have to wait on,” Brandt said.


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