Local schools facing budget crunch

13 years ago

By Joseph Cyr
Staff Writer

    If the preliminary school funding figures released Feb. 15 by the state are any indication, local school districts will have to make do with less money next year.
    Schools typically work on a fiscal year budget, which runs from July 1 to June 30.
    Of the five school districts in The Houlton Pioneer Times’ coverage area, SAD 70 will suffer the biggest loss in state funding. The district is projected to receive nearly $300,000 less for the 2011-12 school year. The hit to the district would have been even worse if it had not formed an AOS with neighboring Danforth last month.
    “That figure is pretty much what I was expecting,” said SAD 70 Superintendent Bob McDaniel. “We had figures back in January and they stayed just about the same.”
    SAD 29 is projected to receive about $38,766 less in state aid this year. While that hit by itself may not seem so bad, Interim-Superintendent Ray Freve noted that SAD 29 would also have to increase its required local share.
    “Not only are we getting $38,000 less, but we will likely have to raise an additional $372,000 in local share to get our money,” Freve said.
    Other school districts will also see reduced state funding. Southern Aroostook is forecast to receive $187,993 less, while SAD 25 (Katahdin) is projected to receive $285,514 less and SAD 14 (Danforth) is estimated to get $80,220 less.
    Neighboring SAD 1 (Presque Isle) is projected to lose $1.2 million in funding, but County schools are not alone in receiving less state funding. The Portland school system is forecasted to receive $2.8 million less from the state next year.
    A handful of school districts will see an increase in their state money next year. For example, SAD 22 (Hampden) is expected to receive an extra $261,338 and SAD 9 (Farmington) will get an additional $497,589.
    The bottom line for local school districts will be finding ways to be more creative in their budget preparations or making tough cuts.
    “You still have to pay to heat the buildings, so there are all kinds of fixed costs,” McDaniel said. “We don’t know for certain how many people will retire this year, but we will surely have to look at the programs we offer to see if there are some areas we can save.”
    McDaniel said the budget committee is in the process of creating a budget for 2011-12. Once that process is complete, the budget will be presented to his school board. That presentation will not likely happen until the end of May or first of June, he said.
    “The amount people will have to raise [in taxes] will go up,” he said. “It’s frustrating. I don’t want to cut any programs, because with this school we don’t have that many programs to cut. It’s not like we have a lot of fat we can cut. I will just have to learn how to do more with less.”
    Up first for SADs 70 and 14 will be the formation of an AOS budget to govern the central office, while SAD 25 and CSD 9 must formulate an RSU following consolidation in that district last month.
    Freve said he was working with his district’s budget committee to come up with a budget that meets the needs of the students.
    “I am not so sure we will be able to do the same [as last year],” Freve said. “That’s the kind of discussions that are going to take place with the budget committee. The board will have to make some tough decisions on some programs that are near and dear to them, such as the after-school program. Most of our federal funds are also standing still or being reduced.”
    Freve said he expects to share a budget with his school board by either the March or April meeting.