In a late session at Bonny Eagle High School, SAD 6 board members approved the budget for school year 2005/2006. Voters will address the process in a June referendum vote to ratify or defeat the budget.

There was little wrangling as the clock approached 11 p.m. and few board members offered any real budget cutting amendments to the figures in front of them. The final budget came in at $35.64 million and saw an increase of $1.66 million over last year’s amount of $33.98 million.

Oleg Svetlichney, chair of the finance committee, said in an interview, ” I am very pleased with the budget. I want to thank the board, the administration and the budget committee for their hard work. The state’s Essential Programs and Services (EPS) formulas are a new process and we had to work within that process.”

Svetlichney continued, “This is a needs-based budget. Now the task is to explain the budget to the community leaders so the voters have the proper message delivered to them. The state numbers are a little confusing. The voters hear that they will see 55% funding from the state, but that won’t happen for four years. They are only seeing 84% of the 55% this year. And some get more than the 55% and some get less than 55%.”

Items that changed the bottom line just before the budget was approved were a new stove to replace a 48-year-old unit in Steep Falls for $10,000. The board also approved an amendment to reduce $125,000 from the maintenance budget. And the board reduced a proposed increase in health insurance from 15 percent to 10 percent. The insurance drop resulted in an $86,592 lowering of the proposed budget.

Overall, the saved dollars amounted to $202,000, far short of the cuts some members had said they would seek. Board member Michael Delcourt of Standish announced he was looking for $500,000 in cuts to bring the Standish share of the budget to a flat no-increase. Based on Delcourt’s math, the increase to Standish taxpayers appears to be somewhere around $150,000.

Defeated amendments included a $32,000 purchase of software to streamline purchasing orders and an amendment to cut $300,000 from the maintenance budget. The maintenance cut saw a close vote, but was kept in place.

Bruce Avery, school board chairman, said of the new budget, “I am proud of this budget. The budget we crafted balances education needs and funding. We focused on what was necessary to provide a quality education rather than on tax relief. In the end the numbers fell where they fell.”

Gordon Billington, Standish town manager wasn’t as positive on the school district’s budget.

“This will be a hard sell to the voters with the state promising tax relief. They saw the additional $2.7 million from the state and they expected some relief,” Billington said. “The state’s formulas are complicated, and they are not tailored to local conditions. The Maine Revenue Service assumed that the voters would not approve anything over the EPS amounts and that the voters would make the local choice to cut taxes. Since the 1990s, all the member municipalities in SAD 6 have to ratify the budget. The voters will have their say in June.”

Dick Lagarde, finance director for Standish, found the preliminary budget picture a little clearer now that the SAD 6 numbers are firm.

“We will take that figure and plug it into our numbers for the budget workshops next week. Since we are under the EPS number the budget is pretty solid. Now that we know the numbers for the district we will hone in on the municipal side of our budget,” said Legard

“The local allocation for the school budget is $7,582,830, based on these preliminary numbers. The Standish mill rate for education drops down to $8.01 from $8.43 and makes our overall mill rate look like $10.26 compared to last year’s $10.75, but these are still only preliminary figures,” cautioned Lagarde.

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