RSU 29 gets first word on budget

8 years ago
HOULTON, Maine — The initial report for next year’s school budget brought some less than ideal news Monday evening for members of the RSU 29 board.

According to Superintendent Ellen Schneider, the preliminary figures released by the state Friday show yet another shift in more burden placed on local taxpayers and less money from the state. As a result, the district could be facing a $178,886 shortfall in the next budget cycle, which could mean several cuts would be needed to balance the budget.

“I will remind you, when I say preliminary figures, anyone who has been on the board for a while knows those figures can change,” she said. “It is commonplace for the Department of Education to send multiple adjustments, even after the state budget has been passed.”

Enrollment, based on the state’s calculations, is down 13 students from a year ago, Schneider said. That decrease will have a direct impact on how much money the state provides the district. According to Schneider, that reduction in state subsidy could be as much $269,420.

State valuation is up for the district is also up, which means the required local share — the amount of taxes a district must raise to receive state subsidy — is also going up. Schneider said the required local amount is likely to be up $90,553 over last year.

The district has done a reasonable job of keeping increases to a minimum in recent years. Last year’s spending plan was up 0.97 percent, while the increase for 2014-15 was 0.57 percent. The biggest spike came in 2012-13 when the budget was up 3.46 percent.

Last year’s school budget came in at $12,874,619. In comparison, the budget in 2010-11 was $11,858,185.

“The bottom line is we are looking at a potential $178,886 difference from where we were last year,” she said. “We know that there will be increases in salaries and benefits next year, so we are facing a significant challenge to get us where we need to be.”

Schneider reminded board members that the figures were only preliminary and subject to change by the time the group starts its budget preparations in March and April. The district budget meeting is typically held in May before going to a referendum in June.