PITTSFIELD – Without additional funding from the state, the proposed SAD 53 budget for 2004-05, as unveiled Monday night to school board members, will cut four staff positions.
Already during this year’s budget process, services, student activities, supplies, books and equipment have been taken out in an attempt to keep the local increase under 5 percent.
“We have got to cut,” said Budget Committee Chairwoman Barbara Pomeroy Monday night. “We cannot put the burden on our taxpayers.”
The proposed budget – which will not be completed or formally voted on until May – represents a 4.23 percent increase over last year’s local assessment.
The $9.4 million proposal reflects two major increases that the district has no control over: salaries and benefits have risen $230,000 and tuition to Maine Central Institute – set by the state – has risen $201,000.
Pomeroy said the overall budget increase of $166,363 necessitated cuts in kindergarten through grade eight. She said the budget was projected based on a decrease in state revenue of $4,000.
In the first two rounds of cuts, more than $698,000 was trimmed. The second round of proposed cuts would eliminate the curriculum specialist position, the middle school home economics teaching position and leaves vacant positions at grade one and middle school, which resulted from resignations.
Cutting the positions “was very difficult,” said Pomeroy. “We are asking our teachers to do more and more with less and less.”
By not filling the positions, pupil-to-teacher ratios will increase ranging from 8-to-1 in pre-kindergarten to a high of 21-to-1 in grades two, three, six, seven and eight.
“These numbers are based on how many students we have right now,” said Pomeroy, and do not reflect an increase in enrollment.
Arnold Shorey, principal of Warsaw Middle School, decried the budget cuts and lack of revenue.
“This is all bad news. We are eroding our infrastructure,” he said.
Superintendent Michael Gallagher and Pomeroy pointed out that if Gov. John Baldacci’s proposal to increase school funding by $25 million is approved, it would mean an additional $100,000 for SAD 53. At that point, they said, some of the staff positions would be re-evaluated for reinstatement.
Because the three district towns’ valuations have shifted since last year, each town will see a different percentage increase in its local assessment. Burnham’s valuation rose a whopping $5 million last year, mostly because of lakeside development, and the town would see an 8.83 percent increase in assessment.
Detroit would experience only a .9 percent rise. Pittsfield, the largest of the three towns, would see a 3.42 percent increase. The increase could amount to: Burnham, $71,375; Detroit, $4,175; and Pittsfield, $90,812.
The budget breakdown is $5,002,756 in state subsidy; $2,306,748 in local assessments; $178,923 in additional revenues; $121,077 balance brought forward; $1,791,868 in additional local option funds.
Once the final revenue figures are available from the state, Pomeroy said, a final budget will be prepared for a public hearing May 27 and a referendum vote June 8.