BREWER – When talking about the school department’s financial situation, school leaders at Monday’s Brewer School Committee meeting were not optimistic.
“It’s going to be difficult,” Superintendent Daniel Lee said. “I estimate that we’re looking at a reduction of $500,000 to $1 million” from the bottom line.
Announced in November, Gov. John Baldacci’s decision to cut school subsidies statewide by $27.8 million will mean state education funds will be about 5 percent less, Lee said.
“That equals a $163,000 reduction in subsidy” for Brewer, he said.
On Thursday he added, “That’s my estimate. As we move later into the winter and the Legislature looks at the [state’s financial situation], how do we know that’s not going to be 10 percent?”
Baldacci has included the school funding reductions in his supplemental budget that legislators will consider later this month.
The sale of the Cianchette Building on Whiting Hill in November to Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems makes the property tax-exempt and removes around $305,000 from city tax rolls, which will affect the school department, Lee said, since the school budget makes up more than half of the city’s total budget.
“Roughly half of that goes to the school,” he said.
Lee added $244,000 to the figure, which is the penalty the state will assess if residents vote Jan. 27 not to join Regional School Unit 15.
Principals in Brewer are gathering today to review the financial situation and will start to plan for cuts, Lee said.
“We’re going to look at what those reductions would look like,” he said. “We know that next year we’re not going to get any more than this year.”
He said it’s important to start the process early.
The fiscal year 2008-09 school budget is just over $17 million to operate Brewer High School, Brewer Middle School and four elementary schools.
“We’re going to be cutting back on what we spend,” Mark Farley, school board chairman, said during the meeting. “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”