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by Colin Powell
The CSD school board will present a budget that is $118,000 less than the current year’s budget at the annual public budget hearing on Thursday, June 9. Faced with the prospect of less revenue, and with statistics that show number of staff level while student population has steadily declined over the past 10 years, the school board had set a goal for the superintendent and school principals to develop a budget with no increase to taxpayers.
The final budget shows a net 1.8 percent decrease, down to $6,173,206 from $6,291,666 for the 2010-11 school year. Because nearly two-thirds of the school budget consists of personnel expenses, cuts were achieved by eliminating or reducing positions. The second and fourth grades next year will each have only one teacher instead of two, cutting about $100,000 from the budget.
In the high school, the librarian position was cut in half, while the only technology instructional position was cut, saving around $90,000.
The administrators also proposed cutting time off the K-12 technology coordinator position, saving $12,000, though a proposal to cut a reading support position in the elementary school was rejected by the board, arguing that the middle level student population is actually growing, and the school has been working hard to improve student literacy.
Despite the board goal of not increasing taxes, the board discussed the issue of state subsidy penalties imposed because both Island towns voted against school consolidation in 2009. A number of board members argued that residents in both towns voted against consolidating with Blue Hill Peninsula schools with the full knowledge that the state would cut the district’s subsidy as a penalty; nevertheless, the board voted to return the amount of that penalty, $110,000, to the 2011-12 budget.
Other proposed cuts that were, in the end, restored to the budget included money for the elementary school reading support position mentioned above, as well as about $18,000 for a capital renewal and renovation fund for the high school. The board also chose to leave the one gifted and talented position at the elementary school in the budget, at a cost of $46,000.
Mandated special education costs—items like contracted speech services at $50,000 and $72,000 for new educational technician positions—accounted for part of the major increase in the first budget draft. Those costs remain in the final budget.
While calculating the budget’s effect on the mill rates in each town is difficult, taxes will likely rise slightly, because, despite the budget cuts, the school board has experienced major cuts to revenue, primarily in the state Essential Programs and Services subsidy, which has dropped by $32,000, or about 8 percent, from the previous year. The high school also has fewer tuition students than in years past, which was a major source of revenue for the district.
The public hearing to approve the school budget will take place on Thursday, June 9, at 6 p.m. at the high school. The budget will then go to a referendum vote in each town to confirm the decision at the public hearing.
Voting will take place at the respective towns’ offices on Tuesday, June 14. In Deer Isle and Stonington, polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.