CAPE ELIZABETH – The equivalent of almost 13 full-time jobs would be cut to keep the property tax rate level under one budget scenario presented to the School Board on Tuesday.

The board had directed Superintendent Alan Hawkins to create one budget that would keep the school portion of the property tax rate where it is, another that would maintain current staffing and services, and a third that would fall in between.

A $20.2 million budget would keep the current tax rate at $12.54 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Targeted positions would include teachers, education technicians, librarians, social workers and support personnel. The job cuts would result in a savings of $701,375.

This scenario would also increase high school athletic fees, postpone some maintenance projects and decrease staff development funds.

The $20.6 million mid-point budget would reinstate 5.4 positions at an additional cost of $427,163. Under this scenario, the property tax rate would increase 2.5 percent to $12.85 per $1,000 valuation.

The $21 million budget that would keep staffing and services as they are would result in a 5 percent tax increase, for a property tax rate of $13.17.

Hawkins said this has been the most difficult budget season he has experienced in his 42 years in education. Adding to the complexity this year was a shifting financial situation that was still changing the day before his presentation to the board.

“It has been a changing document practically every single day,” Hawkins said.

The district had anticipated losing a significant portion of state education aid — about $900,000 — only to see the reduction shrink to $40,000 and then, last week, become an increase of $252,512, or 9.9 percent. Earlier this week, the district learned of a slight decrease in federal stimulus funds.

Board Chairwoman Rebecca Millett noted that while it may seem unfair that Cape Elizabeth’s state funds will increase, the district has already had to contend with state funding cuts.

The district has also contended with increases in contractual salary and benefit costs, energy costs, out-of-district tuition and legal services costs. At the same time, Medicaid reimbursements and money from the town’s reserves have decreased.

Hawkins is asking the board to put the $252,513 in state aid and an additional $125,000 in savings from lower-than-expected health insurance costs into a contingency fund — the money would help cover possible furnace replacement at the high school and help offset the expected loss of federal stimulus funding.

Hawkins’ presentation Tuesday was a brief explanation of the budget proposals that board members saw for the first time that evening. It was not meant as a forum for discussion.

The board will begin discussing Hawkins’ budget next week. Board workshops are scheduled for Monday and March 18. A public meeting with Hawkins and the board will be held March 30.

 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: [email protected]