CORINNA – Town officials throughout SAD 48 are taking a closer look at their 2003 proposed budgets in light of a projected $800,000 shortfall in district funding, but most budgets are expected to remain the same. The exception is Newport.
SAD 48 also includes the towns of Hartland, Palmyra, Corinna, St. Albans and Plymouth.
Earlier this week, SAD 48 Superintendent William Braun said the shortfall represents 6 percent of his $15.8 million budget. He said expenditures will be cut back as far as possible to make up the shortfall, affecting academics, staff and athletics, but the individual district towns will still likely see a large increase in their town’s assessments.
Swiftly reacting to the likelihood of a tax increase, Newport officials cut back their proposed budget Wednesday night by $99,133 – a budget that was ready for voters to decide on March 1. Two planned positions will not be filled, the town will not purchase the historical Sebasticook Grange Hall and plans for borrowing to construct a new public works garage have been put off until better times.
By Thursday morning, officials in other towns were stating their disappointment that they didn’t know of the depth of the school problems earlier, while they were preparing their own 2003 budgets.
On Saturday, March 1, Hartland, St. Albans and Newport hold their town meetings; Corinna and Palmyra’s are March 8; Plymouth will vote on March 15.
“I think we all knew there would be a hole this year,” said Corinna Town Manager Judy Doore. “But we are a little disappointed that we were not forewarned. I hope this [shortfall] is not a surprise to our directors.”
Doore said Corinna, like most of the other district towns, flat-funded its budget for 2003. “We kept our budget at nearly a zero increase. We did that knowing that the superintendent was not able to give me any numbers or percentages of increases. Although we do not discuss the school budget at our town meeting, we don’t want to lose sight of the fact that this is a huge part of our budget,” she said.
“We kept it at a zero increase, knowing the school budget would go up but we didn’t have a clue we were preparing for this severe deficit,” she said. “I feel we have misled our taxpayers.”
St. Albans Town Manager Larry Post said his town’s budget increased by only 1 percent, and therefore cannot be cut back more, a sentiment shared by Palmyra’s Administrative Assistant Val Sprague.
Hartland Town Manager Peggy Morgan said she is still assessing the situation.
The next SAD 48 budget committee meeting will be held March 6, after town meetings have already been held in St. Albans, Newport and Hartland.