READFIELD — After a first round of cuts, Regional School Unit 38 is left with a 4.4 percent increase in its budget next year.
School board members added $70,000 to the budget by approving the hiring of a curriculum coordinator, but they also indicated general support for a package of budget reductions totaling $168,802.
At budget workshops coming up the next two Wednesdays, the board plans to consider a second round of reductions totaling about $144,800. They'll also talk about how much of the increase to pass along to local taxpayers and whether it makes more sense to cut entire programs rather than nibbling around the edges.
Even if the district's spending stays flat, taxpayers in Manchester, Mount Vernon, Readfield and Wayne would have to contribute an additional $305,867, or 4 percent, because of an increase in the minimum tax rate required by the state.
Board Chairwoman Samantha Horn Olsen said she doesn't know how far they are from a number that would be acceptable to taxpayers and also would support academic achievement adequately.
"We don't know what our revenue is. We haven't discussed how much we're willing to raise the local share," she said. "It's hard to even have that discussion without having a revenue number to work with."
Including the first round of cuts, the curriculum coordinator's position and the teacher pension contributions that Gov. Paul LePage's proposed budget would require from school districts, RSU 38's 2013-14 budget stands at $15.9 million, up from the $15.2 million budget for this year.
The latest projection of RSU 38's state subsidy is $3.2 million, including $122,482 intended to offset 59 percent of the teacher retirement costs. That's 14.7 percent less than the district is receiving this year.
The school board did not vote on the first-round cuts at a meeting last Wednesday, but board members raised few objections.
They include the deferral of $30,500 in maintenance projects, money for an education technician position that was requested for the middle school, the lease-purchase of a bus and seventh-grade sports teams.
The board put off consideration of the second-round cuts, which include all education technicians for regular education, use of iPads rather than laptops as part of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative and further cuts to maintenance and classroom supplies.
Superintendent Donna Wolfrom presented the board with four administration scenarios to add someone who can guide the district through implementing standards-based diplomas and the Common Core State Standards, plus oversee compliance with mandates relating to the federal No Child Left Behind law, gifted-and-talented education and English language learners.
The scenarios included hiring more elementary school principals and assigning them some of those duties or hiring a part-time curriculum coordinator to handle some of the duties and giving the remaining ones to principals or the special education director.
The board chose the least expensive option — hiring a full-time curriculum coordinator and leaving the other administrators' responsibilities unchanged.
Susan McMillan — 621-5645
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