SOUTH PORTLAND – A school budget that would avoid any tax increase in South Portland would cut 21 positions, including 2.5 teachers, Superintendent Suzanne Godin told the Board of Education Monday.

The zero-increase budget scenario also includes fees for high school and middle school activities.

Godin presented the Board of Education with three budget scenarios: one that would not increase taxes, one that would bring a 2.5 percent increase, and one that is based solely on the needs of the district.

The City Council, which gets final approval on the budget before it goes to city voters, has requested that the school budget show no tax increase.

In order to do that, Godin said, the positions cut would include an English teacher in the gifted and talented program, a part-time high school social studies teacher, a preschool teacher, as well as six ed techs, a guidance councilor/social worker, two tutors, two middle school librarians, a high school attendance clerk and seven custodial positions-six of which are currently vacant. In addition, four custodial positions would go from full time to part time.

The budget without a tax increase also would eliminate the stipends for staff members who lead extracurricular clubs at South Portland High School, such as debate, newspaper, and Key Club, which have declining student participation. In addition, $20,000 in stipends would be removed at the elementary school level.

Also, under the zero-increase budget, the district would use around $1.2 million in federal funds to save 29 positions across the district, including 23 custodians, two elementary school teachers, two special education teachers, a special education ed tech and the middle school vocal teacher.

The funding for those positions expires at the end of the next school year.

A number of other positions, such as the truancy ed tech at the middle schools and high school and staff for the new preschool program at the Youth Alternatives Building in Brick Hill, would be funded through grant monies in a zero-increase budget.

Godin said $2.12 million is expected in state subsidy, which is around $300,000 more than in the current budget but around $1.3 million less than in the 2009-2010 budget.

To increase revenue, Godin has included in the budget a proposal to begin charging fees to participate in after-school sports and activities at the middle school and high school. The fee structure would start at $150 per high school sport or activity and $75 per middle school sport or activity. Additional sports or activities would be reduced in their cost. Conservatively, Godin anticipates the fee structure to generate $128,000, a fraction of the overall co-curricular budget.

“Our concern with a zero-increase budget is that it definitely impacts students and our ability to meet the individual needs of students,” Godin said.

As an alternative, Godin presented a budget showing a 2.5 percent increase, which would include restoring some of the positions with funding from the budget, including the English teacher for the gifted and talented program, the library clerks, guidance/social worker, ed techs for middle school/high school truancy, and academic support at the middle school and elementary school.

That budget would increase spending by $550,000, not incorporate the activities fee system and include funding for preschool instruction and part of the funding for a new position of a director to oversee the district’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum.

A needs-based budget would include an additional $850,000 in spending and include $8,600 for middle school and elementary school field trips, full funding for the preschool instruction and STEM director, $20,000 in increased professional development for the five elementary schools and two middle schools.

That budget also includes $360,000 for routine maintenance, such as painting, roof repairs, and other minor maintenance projects, $105,000 for elementary academic support professionals and $40,000 for a resource police officer for the middle schools, something Godin said is “seen as a dire need.”

While discussions will begin in earnest at the school board’s first workshop March 22 at 6:30 p.m. at Mahoney Middle School, some of the board members, including Jim Gilboy, voiced their concerns about the activity fee structure, something the board has yet to adopt.

“One of my concerns is having that in the budget,” he said. “I think it is misleading in so far as we, as a board, haven’t agreed to that yet.”

Godin said what was presented was just a suggestion to the board and something that by month’s end will be reviewed in a series of workshop sessions.

“We had a significant task in bringing forward a zero percent budget,” she said. “It was not done lightly.”

“In building a zero percent budget,” she added, “we had to find massive amounts of money and now it is for you to decide. This is my recommendation on how you could get to zero.”

Board member Richard Matthews said he would like to see the middle school resource officer in the 2.5 percent budget and Rick Carter wondered why there was no request for additional maintenance money in the 2.5 percent budget.

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