The MSAD 15 Board and district staff continued to refine the proposed 2017-18 school budget at a series of April workshops. Tasked by the Board with further reducing a draft budget that reflected a 5 percent increase, district administrators sharpened their pencils. On April 12, they returned with a revised $25.5 million budget that limits the overall increase to 3.94 percent, down from an initial 8.8 percent increase at the outset of the budget development process.
The latest budget draft will be discussed at a board meeting on Wednesday, April 26, at 6:30 pm at the high school. After that, information will be mailed to residents in early May and a school budget town meeting held on May 25. The budget goes to the voters on June 13.
According to Superintendent Craig King, the budget picture is complicated this year by reductions in state aid to education, higher insurance costs, a shifting of pension obligations from the state to the community, and increased expenditures by the District on school renovation bonds, among other factors. To offset those baked-in increases and keep the overall rise under 4 percent, the District proposes reductions in staffing and programs, a moratorium on non-essential spending, and a hold on vacant positions, among other measures.
Under the proposed budget reductions, all five district schools would share the impact. Cuts include elimination of Spanish instruction at the elementary level and staff reductions in special education, gifted and talented, physical education, outdoor education, and science. Having identified cutbacks, administrators then prepared a restoration priority list: that is, which items on the chopping block they recommend be restored first in the event that state funding is greater than anticipated or other changes occur. Chanda Turner, Director of Curriculum and Staff Development, described the process of prioritizing as “really painful,” likening it to choosing a favorite child or cutting off a finger, and commended her district colleagues for their professionalism in tackling the question. Their recommended restoration priority list is here; a full overview of the budget and all proposed adjustments is available here. Video of the April 5 meeting, including administrators addressing the budget adjustments in detail, can be viewed here, starting at 1:07.
Any proposed 2017-18 budget remains provisional at best until Augusta weighs in with the official word on what the state’s share will be. Until then, the MSAD 15 Board and district staff will continue their discussions, keep the community informed, and invite questions and input from residents. Links to updates and contact information for board members and administrators can be found on the MSAD 15 home page: www.MSAD15.org