Wednesday, June 19, 2013
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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
In many cases, the proposed cost shift to local taxpayers would be less pronounced than expected, based on the data released Monday.
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:
Twitter: @mikeshepherdmeLOCAL SHARE OF TEACHER RETIREMENT COSTS
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.
TEACHER RETIREMENT PROPOSED LOCAL
DISTRICT COSTS NEXT FISCAL YEAR CONTRIBUTION
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