Maine School Administrative District 17 Superintendent Heather Manchester addresses the board of directors Monday evening at the Central Office in Paris. The board voted unanimously to approve a $51.5 million budget for 2024-25. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

PARIS — Directors of Maine School Administrative District 17 voted unanimously Monday evening to approve the $51.5 million budget for fiscal year 2024-25.

The budget will go to voters in the eight district towns at their respective polling places June 11.

The budget is 7.5% more than this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Oxford Hills School District Superintendent Heather Manchester said several factors contributed to the increase, which caused local assessment to go up from 12.18% to 16.52%.

She said American Rescue Plan funds, which have helped expand student services over the past few years, are expiring and some programming and salaries need to transition to local taxpayers. The cost of materials, utilities and fuel continue to rise. Also, years of deferred maintenance, which provided short-term relief during previous administrations, is not a plausible alternative, as demonstrated by the sudden closing of Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris in February.

The district plans to purchase two new school buses, although four are needed, and will replace one plow truck instead of two. The fuel pump at the bus garage is also due to be replaced but is being pushed back one more year, when it will be legally required. School and athletic grounds mowing, plowing and landscape equipment will also be squeezed for another year of service, she said.


Staffing is being reduced as well. One elementary assistant principal position will become a halftime position, a requested secretary’s position at Oxford Hills Middle School was cut, as were three teaching positions with low class sizes. Money for advanced placement testing and expanding project-based learning at the middle school were also cut from the budget, the superintendent said.

Directors are also seeking to establish a capital improvement account to start addressing the consequences of deferring maintenance and repairs to school buildings, starting with $2 million. Manchester said districtwide, the needs exceed $20 million.

Estimates to make Agnes Gray school safe enough to reopen could exceed $660,000. Paris Elementary School, one of the newer buildings in the district, needs $736,000 in maintenance, and Oxford Elementary School could require more than $4 million in repairs, according to Manchester.

Voters will be asked to approve $2 million for the capital improvement account as a separate item on the June 11 ballot. If approved, it will authorize the district to begin prioritizing needs and collecting bids.

It will also be up to voters to approve all improvement projects as they are developed.

In other business, directors authorized a $2 million tax anticipation note to cover short-term payment for district programming. For example, many federal grant projects require MSAD 17 to pay for equipment or services as they are rendered and be reimbursed by the government later. The anticipation note is not tied to the 2024-25 budget or school year and will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

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