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MSAD 20 heading into budget in good shape

FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — Unlike some other area school districts, Maine School Administrative District 20’s budget for next year is on track to produce a small reduction in local taxes.

MSAD 20, which serves approximately 525 students in Fort Fairfield, is receiving an additional $203,000 in state funding this year due to changes in the funding formula, said Superintendent Tim Doak.

Doak recently finished finalizing a budget proposal that will be presented for approval by residents at a budget hearing Wednesday, May 23.

Thanks to the additional state funding, the school portion of Fort Fairfield’s municipal property tax rate is on track to decline by 0.62 mills from last year’s budget, Doak said.

The additional funding from the state stems from changes in the state’s funding formula for general purpose aid, which is based on municipal property tax valuations, student population and a host of other factors.

That formula change is leaving Fort Fairfield in a good position, although in other school districts, the changes mean less state money and more pressure on local taxpayers to make up the difference.

“If Fort Fairfield gains money, you’re guaranteed other towns are going to lose money,” Doak said.

MSAD 20’s impact to Fort Fairfield taxpayers is decreasing even as the state’s minimum school mill rate is increasing. Each year, the Maine Department of Education sets a minimum mill rate establishing a baseline of how much communities need to contribute to their school district in order to receive state funding.

The state’s minimum mill last year was 8.19 and this year increased to 8.91, Doak said.  

“That’s the highest increase I’ve seen since I’ve been doing this,” he said.

MSAD 20’s proposed 2018-2019 budget would be 1 percent more overall than last year, totalling $6.19 million.   

Doak said the additional funding will be directed in a few areas. The district is planning to buy two new buses through a leasing program and add another high school teacher.

“We needed to have more course offerings,” Doak said, explaining that the new teacher will teach a range of subjects, including electives.

The district has not finalized the electives that will be offered but has a few ideas, Doak said. They’re considering offering a Jobs for Maine graduates class, which would be funded by a grant, as well as a class in environmental studies and software coding.

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