Regional School Unit 3 is proposing a $19.2 million budget for the 2013-2014 school year, with an overall increase in local assessments of more than 4 percent.

Superintendent Heather Perry explained that the $19,219,000 budget proposed for the 2013-2014 school year is down $21,500 on the expenditure side of the budget. However, the revenue portion of the budget includes a loss of $205,000 to cover the district’s share of teacher retirement, as well as a loss of $271,873 in state subsidy.

According to budget documents, the state provided $12,133,914 in subsidy in 2011-2012; $11,619,858 in 2012-2013; and $11,347,985 in 2013-2014.

While the state subsidy decreases, the local share of the budget to towns continues to grow, with the 2013-2014 budget representing a 4.4 percent increase over the previous year’s local assessment.

Budget documents indicate the estimated local share for next year’s budget is $6,979,915, which is $294,181 more than the previous year’s assessment.

To help alleviate the burden to taxpayers of increasing education costs, Perry said the School Board considered implementing a pay-to-play system for athletic programs. She said an analysis of such a model revealed that the district, which has a high percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch who would also qualify for a waiver for athletic fees, would generate about $5,000 in revenue.

Perry said the $5,000 revenue figure was estimated based on the district's assessing a $25 to $50 fee per athlete, per sport.

However, the revenue generated by the pay-to-play system would be essentially wiped out by the increased costs of administrative oversight and paperwork, Perry said.

Some of the larger cuts in the budget were related to staff reductions, reducing special education costs and delaying capital projects. In terms of staff reductions, the budget eliminates three educational technician III’s — one each from Monroe Elementary,  Morse and Mount View Middle School —  at a total savings of $63,000.

The budget also reduces special education out-of-district placement costs by $50,000. Perry said that reduction is due to a drop in the number of students receiving services out of the district, and because of changes in the law that allow students who attend residential programs to become a resident of the district that offers the program.

Once the student becomes a resident of the district where the program is offered, the out-of-district placement costs are eliminated, Perry explained.

She further noted that the $50,000 reduction is only for the overnight residential programs.
Funding for the Troy Elementary School roof was postponed, which saved the district $45,000 in the budget.

While the cuts are significant, Perry said the district didn’t lose any major programs or staffing positions, as had occurred in the 2012-2013 budget. The budget for the current school year eliminated a principal position, the French program, two elementary classroom teachers, an elementary guidance counselor and a library media educational technician.

The 2013-2014 budget includes some additions, such as $30,000 for the School Nutrition Program, increasing the stipend for the volunteer coordinator to $4,000 and adding $6,600 for grade six and grade nine transition trips.

When the proposed budget was presented to town officials, Perry said the greatest concern was that the local assessment would increase for each of the towns. The percentage increase in each town ranges from a high of 8.7 percent in Unity to a low of 1.6 percent in Waldo.

Perry acknowledged that any increase to taxpayers is difficult, but she said the budget had been cut “to the bone” and further cuts would impact programs and staff.

Residents will have an opportunity to weigh in on the budget during a meeting scheduled for May 22 at 7 p.m. in the Mount View Middle School gymnasium. The budget referendum vote is scheduled for June 11.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.