Oxford Hills school district Chief Financial Officer Carrie Colley answers questions about SAD 17’s 2022-2033 proposed budget during a forum at Oxford Hills Elementary School last Thursday. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

OXFORD — Maine School Administrative District 17 administrators have proposed a $47,557,984 budget for next year, an increase of about $3.7 million over 2021-22. District directors will consider the proposal at the May 4 board meeting.

The proposed budget of $3,439,320 for the Oxford Hills Technical School has already been adopted by the district’s board of directors.

Each budget will go before voters for final approval at a referendum vote in June.

According to Chief Financial Officer Carrie Colley, there will be no impact to local assessments for these budget increases due to a couple of factors. The district will apply a projected carryover from the current budget savings of $1.2 million, and the mill rates for property owners will decrease from 8.4% down to 7.9%.

Additionally, the district learned last July that, after its 2021-22 budget was finalized, general purpose aid from the state would be $1.2 million more than expected, and board directors voted to apply that amount to the 2023 fiscal year.

Presentations on the proposed SAD 17 district budget were held last Wednesday night at Paris Elementary School and on Thursday night at Oxford Elementary School.


Colley went over the needs the district is facing in the upcoming school year and broke down expenditures for voters.

She explained that administrators have no control over most of the district’s annual budget, as fixed costs for SAD 17 operations account for more than 96% of the total operating budget. Salaries alone account for 79% of spending; the district is in a contract negotiation year with educators and is projecting higher costs going forward.

Health insurance is budgeted to increase by 2.1%, which Colley said is a much lower increase than many districts face.

Utilities are also expected to continue to rise in the coming year, and new budgets for the school district and the technical school allow for a 10% increase in electricity, 50% increase for transportation fuel and 20% increase for heat.

“SAD 17 has more than 600 employees,” Colley said. “We are the fifth largest school district in Maine. But geographically we are the largest. We travel 250,000 miles per year, which figures out to 1,428 miles per student day.

“There are 20 buildings (in SAD 17) with the school buildings, two maintenance buildings, two at Gouin Athletic Complex, Roberts Farm, the Streaked Mountain School and Central Office.”


The impact of the pandemic has been serious after two years of shutdowns, with quarantines and remote and hybrid education, so the district is hiring more social workers and counselors to support students’ mental health needs.

It will also bring full-time drug and alcohol counseling in house, a position that has been an outsourced three-quarter time position. That change will not decrease costs but will increase availability of services to students.

“We’ve had lots of uncertainty,” Colley said during Thursday night’s forum at Oxford Elementary School. “We have mental health issues with both staff and students.

“The pandemic has also affected attendance. Many students have missed quite a lot of school, which affects their learning. Some are not where they should be … and are really struggling to keep up with their classes.”

The school district has had to compensate for staffing issues since the pandemic as well, a situation that every level of the district has felt. At the start of the 2022-23 school year, 11 teacher positions were unfilled, along with many ed tech positions.

Lack of educators required creative restructuring, including combining multiple grades of students into shared classes at some of the elementary schools. There will be more challenges in the coming academic year; Colley shared that Hebron Station School has a newly named principal and only one returning teacher.


To help retain staff and increase performance, SAD 17 is adding an instructional coach to help current teachers with best practices and support new teachers coming into the field. It is also adding lacrosse to middle school athletics, adding a social studies teacher to Oxford Hills Middle School and an elementary art teacher that will increase classroom instruction and cut down on inter-school mileage and driving time.

Colley noted that recent experiments with hiring and retention bonuses for bus drivers did not work. From the first day of this school year transportation has been difficult for families. Last September, Oxford Elementary School had a bus breakdown the first day of school; later in the year Hebron only had one of two bus routes operating for an extended period.

“It’s a nationwide problem. (In Maine) they are working at the state level to address this,” Colley said. “To try and make it easier to get a bus driver’s license — you have to earn a commercial driver’s license and then you have to go over and above that to be a bus driver. It’s a long, cumbersome process that they are trying to simplify.”

Oxford Hills Technical School Student Services Coordinator Nancy McClean presented the Maine Vocational Region 11’s budget of $3,439,320 ahead of Thursday night’s community forum. The tech school’s budget will increase by 3.84% next year. It serves students from SAD 17’s eight communities as well as Buckfield, Sumner and Hartford, which are part of Regional School Unit 10.

McClean said there will be new initiatives at OHTS in the fall, starting with students able to take mathematics courses that can be applied as earned credits at Central Maine Community College.

A new partnership is being established with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 567 for an electrical training program, with some classes being held at the association’s apprenticeship center in Lewiston.


OHTS has expanded its commercial driver’s license training this year and is starting adult ed classes. McClean said that, so far, 17 students have enrolled in CDL classes.

Technical programs are being developed for younger Oxford Hills students, including a tech camp this summer for elementary students, and a one week program at the middle school is being reestablished for the fall.

McClean said that OHTS Director Paul Bickford is exploring other new programs to add in the future, including welding, firefighting/EMT training and cosmetology, as well as ways to add space to the technical school, which is at full physical capacity.

With the community presentation of next year’s budgets complete, SAD 17’s Budget Committee will meet and review it on April 27. The committee will makes its final recommendations to the 21-member board of directors at its May 4 business meeting.

Oxford Hills Technical School’s Board of Directors adopted its proposed budget of $3,439,320 ahead of Thursday night’s community forum.

The approved budgets will be presented at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School during a public forum on June 9 and the referendum vote for all eight communities in the district is scheduled for June 14.

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