March 19, 2013

LePage's teacher retirement proposal draws fire

School districts say paying part of the costs will force them to lay off staff and cut other services.

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

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Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen testifies Monday in favor of the state’s plan to have local districts pay a portion of teacher retirement costs.

Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

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The city of Portland, for example, had expected to lose more than $1 million in state-funded retirement contributions, but the state figures say the city would pay approximately $222,000, or 16 percent of retirement costs.

At a press conference on Monday before the hearing, Dick Durost, executive director of the Maine Principals' Association, said shifting retirement costs to local schools, combined with the end of revenue sharing to local communities, would put local taxpayers "in a no-win situation" of either raising taxes to make up those funds or cutting education programs.

"I don't think local taxpayers want to do this," Durost said.

Virgel Hammonds, superintendent of RSU 2, in Hallowell, Farmingdale, Monmouth, Dresden and Richmond, presented lawmakers with alternatives to the education cuts. They included repealing a $400-million package of tax cuts enacted in the last legislative session.

GOP lawmakers have defended the package against similar attacks from Democrats, saying the cuts, which took effect in January, haven't had time to help Maine's economy but are promoting economic growth.

However, one of Hammonds' students, Kurt Thiele, a senior at Hall-Dale High School in Farmingdale, said the tax cuts represent just one of the administration's many misplaced priorities.

"The futures of thousands of students are now put into jeopardy because the governor and a few legislative leaders thought it was a good idea to push through a package of income tax cuts without an idea to actually pay for this," he said.


State House Bureau Writer Michael Shepherd can be reached at 370-7652 or at:



The proposed state budget would shift part of the cost of teacher retirement contributions to local school districts from the state, which now pays 100 percent of the bill. Each district would be affected differently based on local tax valuations and other factors. Here is a look at a sampling of communities and data provided Monday by the Department of Education.



AUGUSTA $360,878 $133,050

BIDDEFORD $408,144 $47,079

BRUNSWICK $412,399 $108,192

CAPE ELIZABETH $299,833 $43,220

FALMOUTH $383,474 $72,689

GORHAM $411,113 $194,326

PORTLAND $1.37 MILLION $222,106

SCARBOROUGH $517,219 $0

SOUTH PORTLAND $550,606 $17,131

WATERVILLE $293,883 $175,503

WESTBROOK $441,101 $163,953

YARMOUTH $265,350 $42,735

SAD 6 $521,341 $145,928

SAD 51 $415,247 $189,474


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