Well, you have to start somewhere.

Gov. LePage’s bipartisan budget-cutting task force got down to business last week and immediately embraced a spending cut that’s sure to spark controversy, especially in rural areas of the state.

But what’s a little controversy when you’re saving Maine’s taxpayers $350,000?

On the other hand, what’s $350,000 when you’re looking for $25 million in spending reductions?

Not that we’re complaining, mind you. Every little bit helps. We eagerly await the $24,650,000 surge of budget-cutting yet to come.

The reduction approved by the task force last Thursday would eliminate a state subsidy that helps local school districts comply with Maine’s mandated minimum salary for teachers.

The $30,000-per-year minimum pay for public schoolteachers was adopted by the Legislature in 2005 and the subsidy was enacted so that poorer districts could make up the difference between the state’s requirement and local pay scales.

One rural district, Regional School Unit 67 (Lincoln, Chester and Mattawamkeag), received a $44,000 subsidy last year. School Administrative District 63 (Eddington, Holbrook and Holden) collected $21,625.

Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen told the task force the subsidies are paid to “a pretty big swath of districts,” according to a report by MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover.

The total amount of money on the table here is a drop in the bucket in terms of overall state spending, of course, but the loss of the subsidy will leave significant holes in the budgets of districts such as School Unit 67. The subsidy was never intended to be permanent, according to Bowen, but we would venture a guess that none of the districts that benefit from the subsidy have plans in the works to replace it.

If the Legislature adopts the task force’s recommendation and eliminates the subsidy, the minimum teacher salary law will immediately become an unfunded state mandate that burdens local taxpayers. The Republican majorities in both houses of the Legislature showed considerable interest during this year’s session in repealing laws they didn’t like and demonstrated fierce resistance to unfunded mandates — remember the ill-fated anti-bullying law?

So we can’t help but wonder if they might consider rolling back the minimum teacher salary — or at least exempting districts that will have trouble making up the difference.

Give Bowen credit, in any case, for delivering proposed spending cuts in the education budget — the task force will consider additional reductions to school spending next month — as opposed to several department heads who offered nothing at all.

Board of Corrections Chairman Neale Duffett, for example, brushed off the task force with a letter saying spending reductions would be “very unwise given our current fiscal situation and the fact the county correctional budgets are extremely tight for the current and upcoming fiscal years.”

Really? Corrections budgets are tight? Who would have guessed? Thank goodness school districts don’t have that problem!

Task force member Joe Bruno, a Republican who served in the state House of Representatives, said he was “disappointed in this kind of letter.”

He’s too kind. There must be a stronger word than “disappointed.”

The $25 million in budget cuts the governor is looking for might be overly ambitious, and he may end up having to settle for less.

But one thing is certain: If every department that has a tight budget refuses to participate, the task force and the entire process of prioritizing state spending will be doomed to failure.