GRAY — Residents in Gray and New Gloucester will vote June 13 on validation of the proposed SAD 15 budget totaling nearly $25.6 million. 

The proposed budget is more than $967,000 above the previous year, representing a 3.93 percent increase. The SAD 15 preliminary budget originally included a much higher increase but was reduced during the budget process. 

SAD 15 Superintendent Craig King said that the initial budget proposal in February included an 8.8 percent increase from the previous year, which he said was “too dramatic an increase.”

King said he directed administrators  and others involved to reassess and reduce areas of the budget while still meeting the needs of the district’s strategic goals and what is provided for student instruction. 

After that first attempt to reduce the budget, King said it was brought down to about a 5 percent increase. That proposal was brought to the school board’s finance committee, and then to the full board. King said the board asked for a proposal that would result in closer to a 4 percent increase from the previous year. 

In the superintendent’s message as part of a May 1 district newsletter, King outlined his support for the final product. 

“As superintendent of schools, I believe this is a fiscally responsible budget that serves the needs of our students and respects the taxpayers who support this budget. This budget will help guarantee that the communities of Gray and New Gloucester are providing our young people a quality education that will prepare them for the world of work, citizenship, and post-secondary education.” 

King said that district measures to address budget growth include a moratorium on non-essential spending, not filling a number of open positions “unless absolutely necessary,” eliminating teaching positions, and reducing a variety of operational costs.

According to a budget overview document available on the district website, the estimated local assessment for each town under the budget proposal would be over $9.5 million for Gray and $5.2 million for New Gloucester. Gray covers 64.27 percent of the local assessment and New Gloucester 35.73 percent. 

The same budget overview lists the potential impact on each town’s tax rate. The increase of $587,993 for Gray taxpayers would result in a $0.78 increase to the overall tax rate, meaning a $100,000 home would see an increase of $78. The increase of $250,802 for New Gloucester taxpayers would result in a $0.55 increase in the overall tax rate, meaning a $100,000 home would see an increase of $55. 

School board chairwoman Tina Martell said the district has made solid progress in supporting student achievement in the face of budget challenges over the last few years. She also mentioned how the uncertainty about state education funding complicates the process. 

“The changes in Augusta are affecting all school systems greatly, and every school system has gone through a similar process this year,” Martell said. 

Voting will take place on Tuesday, June 13, in Gray at the Newbegin Community Center and in New Gloucester at the New Gloucester Fire Station. 

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.