Some 40 voters from New Gloucester and Gray, six of whom were members of the school board, approved a proposed $27.8 million school budget for fiscal 2019-20 at a district-wide ‘town meeting’ on Wednesday May 23 at GNG High School. The budget, reflecting an increase of 3.96 percent over the current budget, now moves to a referendum vote on Tuesday June 11. At that same June 11 vote, New Gloucester residents will also choose members of the town select board and the school board and decide whether to establish a town charter commission.
At the May 23 district meeting, the individual school budget articles saw only a smattering of opposition. The article to appropriate $3.9 million in additional local funds, voted on by secret ballot, drew the strongest resistance but passed with 30 votes in favor and 8 opposed.
During the public hearing phase of the meeting, several residents questioned the reduction of a music position to half-time status and the resulting impact on courses and extracurricular opportunities at the high school. Gray resident Mel Craig thanked the board for partially restoring the position that had been slated for elimination, but said that even a half-reduction would diminish students’ access to a rigorous curriculum. Craig said her son and other students would be forced to choose between Advanced Placement courses and the arts activities needed to earn a visual and performing arts endorsement with their diplomas. J.D. Domas expressed related concerns that the cut in music staff would adversely affect students’ ability to prepare for and participate in all-state and district ensembles.
Superintendent Craig King defended the music position decision, noting that the budget had been developed over four months of budget meetings and workshops and that “no stipends have been touched” that would reduce extracurricular support. Craig added, “We offer as much as we can” but acknowledged that a high school with fewer than 600 students “is going to have some limitations.”
Other audience questions concerned specifics of the instructional and special education budgets and the need for and reach of adult education programs.
In his budget overview before the votes, King commended the school board for offering “high-quality education at a good price, particularly in comparison with our neighbors.” He noted that of adjoining districts, only RSU 16 (Poland-Mechanic Falls-Minot) has lower per-pupil costs than MSAD 15. If approved at referendum, the FY20 budget is expected to increase New Gloucester’s mil rate by $0.52, or an additional $103 on a $200,000 home.
The MSAD 15 budget referendum vote will be held on Tuesday, June 11, 2019, from 6 am to 8 pm at the New Gloucester Fire Station at 611 Lewiston Road (Route 100). Full details on the budget can be accessed here on the MSAD 15 website.
— Reported by Joanne Cole and edited by NGX staff