On Tuesday, June 9, the citizens of Westbrook will vote on the school budget. If the voters vote yes, the budget, which has been approved by both the Westbrook School Committee and Westbrook City Council, will be adopted for the 2015-2016 school year.

Historically, our students have received tremendous support from this community; the resources provided to our schools are achieving measurable and positive results as evidenced by kindergarten readiness, improved student achievement and increased graduation rates. This proposed budget is fiscally responsible and reflective of the resources needed to continue to move our school system forward by continuing to adequately provide for the educational needs of our children.

The proposed budget reflects a modest increase in expenses of approximately $135,000, or 0.4 percent, from the present operating budget. However, due to a significant reduction in state sources of revenue for public education of over $1.2 million, a combined city, school and county requested tax increase of 4.5 percent is included in this budget – the first requested increase in nearly three years. This equates to approximately $148.20 dollars annually or $12.35 per month on a home valued at $190,000.

As you consider this information, please know we have carefully scrutinized every line item and reviewed all programs and personnel resources in the continued effort to maximize student outcomes while being conscious of the financial impact to our citizens and community.

It is important to note that the state of Maine does not fully fund public education. More specifically, the Essential Programs and Services (EPS) funding model is intended as a minimum amount that schools should be spending to provide a basic education; there are many critical parts of school budgets that are not funded, or are funded, at less than the actual cost to provide the program or service. Specifically, the state’s funding model does not provide full funding for Special Education and English Language Learner programs in Westbrook. In addition, the state’s funding model does not fully fund the cost of transportation, activities, athletics and maintenance of facilities. Additionally, increased costs in heating, electricity, utilities and diesel fuel are not recognized in the EPS funding model.

The Westbrook School Department is committed to a first-class education system and providing our students the resources and support necessary to reach their full potential. The proposed 2015-2016 school budget maintains all existing present programming to include: Art, Music, Gifted and Talented, Vocational, Honors/Advanced Placement, Universal Curriculum, Health and Physical Education, Library and Technology services, Modern and Classical Languages, Special Education, English as a Second Language, Summer Programming, Alternative Learning, Adult and Community Education, Title I, Pre-K, Nursing, Guidance, Co-Curricular and Athletics. With voter approval, this budget will fund these and other established instructional programs while the school department continues to look for ways to increase efficiencies while maximizing resources for collective impact.

In keeping with Westbrook’s tradition of strong support for our students and schools, please review as much information as possible on this budget and vote on June 9, from 7 a.m.- 8 p.m., at your designated municipal polling station. Additionally, you may vote in advance of this date (by absentee ballot ) at the Westbrook City Hall, located at 2 York St.

Your continued support is essential to maintaining the integrity of our school system and is deeply appreciated. Please contact me personally with any questions, concerns and/or ideas at [email protected] or at the Superintendent of Schools office, 854-0800.

Dr. Marc Edward Gousse is Westbrook’s superintendent of schools.

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