July 15, 2019

SAD 34 digs for budget savings Panel: $500,000 in cuts not enough

BELFAST – A team of consultants has identified $500,000 in cuts in the proposed SAD 34 budget, but the district’s finance committee asked the group to dig deeper.

The committee met Friday evening to hear the recommendations of a group of consultants that includes Paul Luttrell, former SAD 34 business manager; Carol Robbins, former SAD 34 superintendent; Mark Biscone, CEO of Waldo County Healthcare; and James Patterson, former director of the University of Maine Hutchinson Center.

The consultants offered their help when the district faced an $800,000 shortfall in the 2005-06 budget. Schools closed early because of the shortfall, and teachers and staff did not get paid in full.

The district now is focused on getting voters to approve a budget for 2006-07. The $22.5 million proposal was defeated at referendum in the six Belfast-area communities on June 13.

Finance committee Chairman Miles Gray said Saturday the team has met with administrators and business manager Toni Reed to consider the implications of cuts.

“The consultants gave us their report,” Gray said of the Friday meeting, which outlined $500,000 in cuts, including reducing the contingency account and other savings.

None of the savings came from staff cuts, Gray said, but the committee learned that Reed has resigned, effective June 30, as has Joan Callahan, the special education director.

By not filling those positions and instead reshuffling administrative responsibilities, the district might see savings, he said.

Most board members were present at the committee meeting, Gray said, and the cuts were discussed at length.

“The voting public is not going to approve $22 million,” he said, a sentiment shared by other board members.

The committee directed the consultants and administrators to meet this morning to consider further cuts, resulting in budget proposals of $21.75 million and $21.5 million, Gray said. The finance committee will meet again at 6 tonight in the Troy Howard Middle School.

The committee hopes to craft a recommendation at that meeting to bring to the full board when it meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, also at the middle school.

“The comments that I get from the voters that contact me are that their taxes are too high as it is,” Gray said, explaining the reasons for cutting the budget proposal deeper. Some, with tears in their eyes, tell him they are unable to bear any more increases, he said.

Some voters also have told Gray they will not vote in support of a budget until the status of Superintendent Bob Young is resolved.

Young, who had been out on medical leave for most of the last six months, was largely blamed for creating the budget shortfall.

Earlier this year, some board members said they wanted to fire Young, but he had invoked the threat of a disability claim. Young has said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder, the result, he said, from serving in Vietnam in 1968.

Gray said Interim Assistant Superintendent Bruce Mailloux told committee members Young may have an announcement about his employment status this week.

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