The proposed budget outgoing Gorham Superintendent Ted Sharp debuted on Feb. 11 is up nearly $1.2 million from the spending plan for schools the town approved for this year.

Preliminary figures indicate the cost of operating Gorham schools for the fiscal year beginning July 1 would rise to $35.3 million, up 3.4 percent from this year’s $34.1 million, which included a first ever all-day kindergarten program.

Sharp’s budget would hike Gorham property taxes 87 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Using the preliminary figures in Sharp’s proposal, the tax burden on a home valued at $200,000 would increase $174.

The School Committee was handed Sharp’s proposal in its meeting last week.

“Don’t walk away tonight thinking these things are written in stone,” Sharp said.

Sharp retires as Gorham superintendent on June 30.

On Wednesday, Feb. 25, School Committee members will receive budget books, usually 100 pages thick, with detailed information outlining the costs of keeping schools. The School Committee has not discussed Sharp’s proposed budget yet, and the district has not received its state subsidy figures.

The seven-member panel will review Sharp’s proposal in two, all-day workshops running from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, March 7 and 21, in the Gorham Municipal Center, 75 South St. The workshops are open to the public.

A final budget requires approval from the School Committee and Town Council, plus Gorham voters in a budget validation referendum in June.

The proposed budget estimates that the state’s general purpose aid to Gorham would be flat-funded at $15,774,787, with local taxpayers paying $16,656,213, up 8.07 percent from $15,412,463 or representing an increase of $1,243,750 from a year ago.

In his budget transmittal letter on Feb. 11, Sharp said, “As of this date, public school districts in Maine are still awaiting final confirmation of subsidy allocations.”

Sharp’s budget reductions, which total $173,734, include $29,200 in savings from reduced utility rates and also cutting a full-time teaching position costing $70,000. In the past seven years, more than 50 jobs have been axed at Gorham schools.

New budget items projected to cost $193,038 include a half-time social worker, costing $35,000 for kindergarten through fifth grade, and a social worker-substance abuse counselor for grades 4 through 8 at $70,000.

“As you are well aware,” Sharp read last week from his letter to the School Committee, “constructing a definitive, meaningful budget in the current economic climate has been, and continues to be, very problematic.”

The $34.1 million budget approved in 2014 was up from $32.9 million in 2013 and the budget has risen from $29.7 million in 2008.

“In my 11 years, this was the most fiscally challenging budget,” Sharp said following his budget presentation.


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