Sparse crowd approves SAD 70 budget

HODGDON, Maine — A group of just 21 residents and school board members on Monday unanimously approved a $7.1 million budget for SAD 70 for the 2020-21 school year.


No town officials from Ludlow attended the district budget meeting, which meant no residents of Ludlow could vote on the spending plan. 

Ludlow Town Manager Diane Hines said in a June 30 email that she had informed the school district she was unable to attend and she was unable to find anyone to deputize to take her place at the meeting.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, chairs were spaced out six feet apart in the Mill Pond Elementary School gymnasium. Many, but not all, of those in attendance wore face masks.

A sparse crowd of 21 residents and board members attended the SAD 70 district budget meeting June 29. The group unanimously approved a $7,123,407 budget for the next school year. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

At $7,123,407, the total school budget is an increase of $486,917 over the current fiscal year. The good news for residents is that the actual impact to taxpayers will be less.

“The good news this year is because of the additional students we have, and the state’s ramping up its support of education, we have enjoyed an increase in our [state] revenues,” SAD 70 Superintendent Stephen Fitzpatrick said.

Enrollment for SAD 70 is 497 students, which includes 55 students who, by place of residence, should be attending school in RSU 29, as well as one student from RSU 50.

The district will receive $3,425,742 in state subsidy, which represents an increase of $215,517 over the current budget. In order to receive those funds, the district must raise $1,917,081 for its local share of the budget from taxpayers. That figure is up $28,562.

Because the district is spending above what the state says it should be for Essential Programs and Services, residents must also contribute $471,518 in additional local funds to help balance the budget. That amount is down over the current year by $44,930.

SAD 70 plans to use a carryover — money budgeted in 2019-20 that was not spent — of $675,000 to help mitigate the impact to taxpayers.  

“The board and I are really concerned about the COVID-19 impact on state revenues,” Fitzpatrick said. “We will be eyeing the budget with scrutinous eyes this year, because we need to protect our ability to pay our bills and remain solvent. We can’t help but think that state projections in another couple of months could be significantly impacted.”

The spending plan will now go to a referendum vote July 14 in each of the communities that make up SAD 70.

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