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SAD 32 sees uptick in enrollment, state funding

ASHLAND, Maine — With the first increase in student enrollment in years, the next budget for Maine School Administrative District 32 in Ashland is lowering its local property tax spending.

MSAD 32, which serves Ashland, Garfield Plantation and Masardis, approved the $6,026,230 budget at the district budget meeting Monday, June 11, said superintendent Gehrig Johnson.

While the overall budget increased by 4 percent to more than $6 million, spending from local property taxes decreased by $35,000, the second year in a row to see a decrease in local property taxes.

That decrease in local spending was made possible in part with increased state funding of $245,678 thanks to an increase of 13 students in the district, Johnson said. The district’s total pre-K to grade 12 enrollment currently stands at 284 students, he said.

“Like most County schools, we’ve had a declining enrollment situation. This year, we had a gain of 13 students, which was reflected in an increase in state aid.”

Johnson said the additional students are coming from within the district, which suggests growing families or new families in the area.

“We’re hoping this is the reversal of a trend,” he said. “I’m cautiously optimistic.”

A group of government and business leaders in the Ashland area has been working over the last year to promote that section of Aroostook County, along the Route 11 corridor, and try to attract businesses, workers and residents.

It’s not clear if that group’s efforts were related to the uptick in enrollment, but Johnson said “that group is working hard to bring industry and families into the community.”

“We’ll be watching our enrollment closely. It can be volatile.”

Among other aspects of the district’s 2018-2019 budget is the elimination of 1.5 full-time equivalent positions. One position was a full-time administrative assistant, the other part-time pre-K teacher.

The budget also includes cost of living increases and a new three-year contract for teachers that  Johnson said is aimed at keeping teachers’ salaries competitive with other districts in central Aroostook County.

The starting salary for a new teacher in SAD 32 is now $37,000, and the teachers’ contract includes an average 3.5 percent increase each a year.

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