The Westbrook School Department is slated to lose a significant amount of state funding for the second straight year.

If enacted as planned at the state level, Westbrook schools would lose nearly $500,000 in general purpose aid toward the fiscal year 2016-17 budget.

“We’re starting off behind the 8-ball again here,” said Superintendent of Schools Marc Gousse while discussing the budget Monday.

Westbrook schools’ fiscal year 2015-16 budget is $33,992,591. For next year, the state is expected to pay $14,165,942 toward the budget. The remaining is paid through local property taxes.

Gousse said going into the budget season, he expected Westbrook to receive level funding, given that the district’s enrollment numbers are steady and the city’s property valuation is unchanged.

Westbrook is not the only school district facing cuts – 131 school districts, more than half in Maine, are losing money next year.

Last week, the Maine Department of Education released its funding projections for 2016-17, with Maine schools losing a total of $20 million next year. The state uses a model known as Essential Programs and Services, which calculates each district’s take using a complicated formula that takes into account enrollment and tax valuation.

Portland is slated to lose $2.7 million, while Scarborough will be down $1.5 million and Cape Elizabeth nearly $1 million. Gorham is expected to lose $168,000. School Administrative District 6, which includes Buxton, will lose $50,000.

The Maine School Management Association, which advocates for Maine schools, is urging people to contact legislators and ask them to restore the $20 million in funding.

According to the association’s website, issues this year include the increased cost of education, which is determined by the Maine Department of Education, and statewide property valuation, which is decreasing by $1.4 billion. Each of these figures are used to determine funding for school districts.

“There’s less property wealth to generate money for schools,” said Cornelia Brown, the executive director of the Maine School Management Association Tuesday.

Additionally, the cost of education overall, according to the state, is going up by $12 million. Brown said that hike is caused by a variety of factors, including the cost of special education, charter schools and teacher salaries and benefits.

Westbrook state Rep. Drew Gattine said in a Facebook post this week that the loss of $500,000 in revenue will result in higher property taxes or education cuts. He said restoring the funding will be a high priority for him.

Gousse said Monday that during the past few years, the state has been trying to shift the cost of public education to the local municipalities. He said for Westbrook, which is supposed to receive 50 percent of its yearly funding from the state, a loss of $500,000 is significant.

Gousse has been working on next year’s budget since late summer. He said he always goes into the process trying to meet the needs of students, while being responsible to the taxpayer.

“It’s difficult to plan a budget when you’re going on a rollercoaster each year, with half-million-dollar swings,” he said. “I’ll go into this walking that line, knowing full well that if it’s not reversed, there might be some things that we have to do to pare it back.”

He said he’s trying to organize a breakfast for legislators to have a conversation about the state cuts. At a minimum, he said, he’d like level funding.

Last year, revenue from a variety of sources, including state aid, caused a $1.2 million shortfall for the district. Gousse said that supplemental funding was passed by the Legislature, but it came after many municipalities had passed their fiscal year 2015-16 budgets.

The Finance Committee of the Westbrook School Committee is scheduled to commence its annual budget review process on Saturday, March 5, from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. in Room 114 of Westbrook High School. The process culminates with a school budget validation referendum on June 14.


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