MSAD 15 Board Finalizes $27.8 Million Budget for FY20

On Wednesday April 24, the MSAD 15 board approved a revised FY20 budget of $27.8 million that will go to voters next month. The new budget reflects a 3.96 percent increase over the current year, an additional $1,058,000.  Board members and some twenty interested citizens heard Superintendent Craig King and Director of Finance and Operations Diane Boucher discuss the budget in detail.  King and Boucher cautioned that the impact on taxpayers won’t be known until the state finalizes its contribution, currently estimated at around $10.4 million.  Voters will consider the budget at a budget validation/town meeting on Thursday May 23 at 6:30 pm at GNG High School.  Voter check-in will begin at 6 pm.  

Like informative tour guides, King and Boucher offered context and a sense of scale of as they clicked through detailed budget slides.  The budget presentation can be downloaded here.  Boucher pointed out that electricity, heating oil and gas alone will cost the district nearly half a million dollars.  King noted that because the district has 350 employees, even relatively modest increases in salary and benefits add up to significant overall expense, in this case nearly $1 million, virtually the entire budget increase.  Adding to the bottom line are one-time outlays, including new iPads for Memorial and Russell and resources for a new reading program.  Despite some changes in offerings and personnel–reductions in Latin and social studies, additions in math and special education–the overall staffing level will remain flat. 

Offering the thirty-thousand-foot view, King commented that the district’s per pupil costs are below the state average and significantly lower than those of neighboring communities.  “You’re getting a value here,” King said, “buying great services for your children.”  Both King and Boucher also commended the board for the district’s comparatively low bonded indebtedness, also below the state average.  King added that the buildings “are in great shape.”  Between that and low debt service, he said, the board and the communities “have done really well.” 

As for the state’s anticipated contribution, finance director Boucher called the coming budget year “a worst perfect storm with the state.”  Declining student enrollments and an increase in the state’s valuation of property in New Gloucester and Gray, both key factors in the state’s funding formula, mean at best only a modest increase over last year’s state share.  King illustrated the point: with student numbers down as they are, the state’s $4800 per student means $343,000 less revenue to the district.  “The towns need more children,” King said.  Anticipating the eventual tax bite, the proposed budget includes $1.1 million from reserves.  “We don’t love taking from our rainy day account,” Boucher said.

After the meeting, board members Sam Pfeifle of Gray and Gary Harriman of New Gloucester summed up the predicament for district taxpayers: our homes are in Cumberland county, in range of Portland “which is hot,” but we have “Lewiston-Auburn incomes.”

Attending the meeting were several students and music teacher Jennifer Chaloult, all concerned about the impact of eliminating one full-time music staff position.  Chaloult cited fewer course offerings, less preparation for auditions and regional and state festivals, and reduced informal support as likely results.  Superintendent King explained the analysis and rationale behind restoring a .5 music position, reflected in the revised budget.  Other questions involved a proposed greenhouse project (still in the works) and a swimming program at the Pineland Y for students receiving adaptive services. 

Details on the budget, process, and timeline can be accessed here on the MSAD 15 websiteFind contact info for school board members here

                                                                                          — Reported by Joanne Cole and edited by NGX staff