Despite projected tax increases, the superintendent’s budget also cuts several positions and teams.

The proposed $45.8 million school budget in South Portland could raise taxes by 32 cents per $1,000 of valuation, according to Superintendent Suzanne Godin.

She presented the fiscal year 2015-2016 spending package, which represents an increase of just under $1 million, to the school board on Monday.

The board was scheduled to begin its budget deliberations this week, after the Current’s deadline, and in further workshops planned for 6:30 p.m. on March 24 and 26 at South Portland High School.

Godin, who retires at the end of June, said a final vote on the proposed budget would be held at 7 p.m. on March 30, with a public hearing on the combined municipal and school spending plan set for April 1.

Once the City Council approves the school’s portion of the budget this spring, it will then go to the voters in a citywide referendum. The new fiscal year starts on July 1.

Under the proposed state budget, Godin said, South Portland is slated to receive $5.1 million in education subsidy, which represents a loss in revenue of about $98,000.

In addition, she said, contracted salary and benefits for school department employees are expected to increase by $1.4 million and the total maintenance or capital requests top $200,000.

Also impacting the budget, according to Godin, is the $2.9 million debt payment due on the high school expansion and renovation project, which is an increase of about $191,000.

Overall, she said, the budget is based on the school department’s mission statement and its “need to provide real-world relevance and learning to students” along with “embedding rigor into the curriculum.”

Several of the budget proposals could prove controversial, including a plan to make fifth-grade band an extra-curricular activity, instead of offering band during the school day as is done now.

Godin said that with more than half of fifth-graders participating in band, they miss a total of 90 minutes of instructional time a week, which she described as a “significant loss of in-class time.”

To ensure that students do not miss class, Godin is recommending that the fifth-grade band program be held before the start of school.

To that end, band practice would be offered at the middle schools during first block and then the students would be bused back to the elementary schools, which have a later start time.

Godin is also proposing to eliminate the ninth-grade soccer program, and combine the soccer and basketball teams for both middle schools, which would eliminate four coaching positions.

However, with growth in the popularity of field hockey and lacrosse at the middle-school level, Godin is recommending that new coaching positions be added for those programs.

Another possible controversial recommendation is eliminating five library clerk positions at the elementary school level and replacing them with two technology education technicians instead.

Godin said she made the proposal because “it’s time to increase the technology support offered at the elementary school level” and that volunteers can help the librarians with circulation support.

Other reductions in staffing that Godin proposed are the elimination of one teacher at Dyer Elementary School, due to enrollment declines, along with the elimination of a gifted and talented teacher, a resource room teacher, one technology educational technician, one elementary level literacy teacher and the completion coordinator position.

The role of the completion coordinator is to work with students and families to limit truancy and to put students on a path to graduate on time.

Although Godin included cutting the completion coordinator from the budget, she is concerned about its negative impact. She said since the coordinator was first hired the district has seen a significant increase in graduation rates, along with an overall decrease in truancy.

Godin said the coordinator also works closely with elementary school families and is helping to change attitudes about the importance of getting younger kids to school each day.

Though Godin has recommended that some positions be eliminated, she is also recommending the creation of several new positions, including a Spanish teacher and a full-time custodian at the high school.

Godin also hopes the school board will approve the hiring of one full-time, swing custodian and two part-time custodians, who would not start until after Jan. 1, 2016.

She said the new custodian positions are needed because of the additional square footage at the high school and because the school department “must (continue to) maintain our buildings.”

Other new positions include two additional special education technicians to accommodate the 47 students entering kindergarten who need developmental support.

Godin is also recommending that the school board approve spending just under $30,000 to support stipends for members of the building leadership teams at Brown, Dyer and Small schools.

She said the other schools in the district all have leadership teams and those appointed to the team receive a stipend, so adding a stipend for the other three schools is only fair.

Another recommendation that Godin included in her budget is a 10 percent reduction, across the board, for the operating budgets at each school. While she has reservations about this move, she said the building administrators requested this cut, instead of losing staff.

In other news, Ken Kunin, the finalist for superintendent of schools was set to visit South Portland on Thursday, after the Current’s deadline. A new superintendent is needed because Godin is retiring on June 30.

School board chairman Richard Matthews said the board would also meet in an executive session on March 12 to discuss any “further steps” and said a final vote on whether to hire Kunin would likely be held on April 13.


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