Biddeford High School on Maplewood Avenue is pictured Wednesday. Superintendent Jeremy Ray presented a $35.7 million school budget before the School Committee on Monday. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune

Biddeford High School on Maplewood Avenue is pictured Wednesday. Superintendent Jeremy Ray presented a $35.7 million school budget before the School Committee on Monday. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune

BIDDEFORD — Biddeford Superintendent Jeremy Ray has proposed a $35.7 million school budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Ray presented the proposed budget at Monday night’s School Committee meeting.

If approved by residents in a municipal ballot in June, the proposed budget would add $41,596.19 in local taxes, resulting in a .19 percent increase in the city’s mil rate.

Ray presented the budget timeline for Fiscal Year 2018 at the committee’s Feb. 28 meeting.

During that meeting, Ray said the Maine Department of Education’s recently-released ED 279 report, which outlines a school’s state government subsidy known as Essential Programs and Services, also known as EPS, allocates an additional $944,000 to Biddeford schools than it has in previous years.

Last year, Biddeford schools received just over $10.6 million from the state. This year, the School Department will see nearly 11.6 million in state education funding.

Ray said that figure is based on a $21 million decrease in the city’s three-year valuation, which he attributed to the removal of the Maine Energy Recovery Co. plant — which the city purchased in 2012 — among other factors.

Ray said, under the proposed budget, the School Department will see an increase in wages and benefits. He said several new positions are also to be added.

The school department is looking to hire two pre-kindergarten teachers, one pre-kindergarten educational technician, or ed-tech, and one English language-learning ed-tech.

Ray said the budget will also allow for new programming, including the creation of three pre-kindergarten classrooms that will serve 96 students. He said, upon creation of those classrooms, the school department may be eligible for up to an additional $500,000 in state allocation.

Ray also said recent $300,000 renovations to the Biddeford Regional Center of Technology, which is attached to Biddeford High School, are also to thank for a boost in funding.

“We’re seeing those benefits now,” he said in an interview Wednesday.
 
He also said the budget — which is just over a half million dollars from last year’s — is both responsible and conservative, despite a slight increase in the city’s tax rate.

In 2014, the school budget created a .5 percent increase in the tax rate. In 2015, the city saw a 2.65 increase in the mil rate, and a 0 percent increase last year.

“Throughout that period of time, we’ve been adding programs and building here without sending it to the taxpayer,” Ray said. “I think you look at the last four years of what the School Department has done, it has been extremely conservative but at the same time we’ve been building programs.

“I’m hoping the public and the (City) Council and everyone will be pleased with the work the School Department has done,” he said.

The committee will submit its first draft budget to the City Council on Tuesday. A public hearing will be held at the council’s April 4 meeting, followed by a second public hearing scheduled for May 10, during which the council will take an initial vote on the budget.

The council will make its final vote on the proposed budget on May 16 but city residents have the final say. A school budget referendum question will be presented to voters on June 13.

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]


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