SANFORD — The estimated state subsidy for Sanford school operations is up by $627,000 for the next fiscal year, but decreases in other revenue and increases in expenses means about seven teaching positions and a slew of other education jobs are proposed to be cut.

Sanford School Department business administrator Gwen Bedell presented the proposed $53 million combined school and adult education spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1 to the Sanford Budget Committee on Thursday. Once all revenues are figured in, about $14 .9 million of the school budget is to be raised through taxation, up by about $842,000 from the current year.

The proposed budget for Sanford schools for the fiscal year that begins July 1 calls for cuts that include 7 teaching positions and an array of other staff reductions as the district copes with less revenue from some sources and greater expenditures. The Sanford Budget Committee will take up the budget proposals for the school and municipality on Thursday. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

The proposed cuts include four elementary school teaching positions and three teaching positions at Sanford High School; a part-time construction manager/superintendent position; a curriculum assistant; two education technicians, several part-time and stipend positions, the full-time WSSR-TV coordinator position, and more. Some positions that are currently full-time would become part-time positions, like a psychologist and  a student resources coordinator, among others. In all, the proposed elimination of positions and reductions in hours of some others reduces the proposed budget by $1.1 million.

“Many of these positions are occupied by someone,” said Bedell, estimating that about 45 percent of the jobs proposed to be cut are currently filled. “There are people at home listening, and it is their jobs on the line.”

The remaining 55 percent of the positions proposed to be cut are vacant or will be absorbed by retirements.

Superintendent Matt Nelson earlier in the evening described the budget as “very challenging.”
“It is very difficult, we are responding to not only looking at meeting needs, and paying attention to our revenue and what we need to balance requests – we’re trying to invest and do our best to move education forward in Sanford.”

Also among the cuts is the elimination of summer school at the high school level. The elementary summer school program, the Jump Start program for incoming kindergarten students and the extended school year for special education students remain intact.

There are four new positions proposed, including an assistant principal and a math interventionist at the junior high/middle school, and an in-school suspension ed tech and a third shift custodian at Sanford High School and Regional Technical Center. Those four positions add about $245,000 to the proposed budget.

Sanford’s school population is projected to be down 50 students from this year’s count of 3,101, proposed budget figures show, which results in about $500,000 less in revenue.

The special education subsidy is up by $510,000, but, Bedell noted, while the increased amount is welcome, she said, the school district’s expenses have increased as well.

She told the budget committee that more special education students are requiring out-of-district placements. She said the district is required to absorb the first $32,000 of the out-of-district expense, not counting transportation, and costs associated with education technicians or monitors.

“It is not a spike in the number of students, but growth of the number of students with severe needs,” she said.

Bedell said there are increased costs associated with teacher retirements, and significant increases in health insurance premiums – projected at 15 percent.

She pointed to contracted salary and benefit increases ranging from 2 percent to 3.25 percent. She said the minimum wage increase to $12 an hour impacts substitute positions.

The school department this year contributed a $1 million fund balance to the budget, but projects the fund balance contribution will be $625,000 in the next fiscal year. That is because the local budget is picking up some costs associated with the renovations to the former high school and junior high as they are transformed into a middle school and elementary school, respectively. Bedell said construction costs have increased since the state allocated $43 million for the projects several years ago, and so some items have had to be pared, a process called “value engineering.”

Budget committee members will take up the school and municipal budget proposals at their next meeting, set for 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 28 at City Hall.

The City Council will vote on the budget sometime in April. Sanford residents cast validation votes on the school portion of the budget in June.

Budgets proposed for the municipality and school together, including capital reserves, total $84.6 million. Subtract projected revenues from all sources,  and the total to be raised through taxation is projected at $32.6 million. If there are no changes made by the budget panel or the city council, Sanford’s tax rate is projected to be $21.46 for the fiscal year that begins July 1, up 96 cents from the current $20.50 mil rate.

“This is probably the worst budget season I’ve been through,” said Mayer Tom Cote. “Usually I have a pretty good sense of what needs to occur. This year, I have no comfort level with any of it.”

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or [email protected]

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