Each Spring, a School Committee-approved budget is presented to the Biddeford City Council for their action to finalize the School Department’s budget. Again this year, the citizens of Biddeford will be provided an opportunity to vote on the school budget on June 11, 2019.

The FY20 Biddeford School Department budget created a different set of challenges than in the past several years. As you are well aware, the School Department has been able to pass on almost no increase to the tax rate during the past five (5) budget cycles, but changes in enrollment, increased labor, health insurance costs, and increases in city land valuation have impacted our budget.

These factors have required the School Department to eliminate positions, add or restructure positions in areas of need, while at the same time budgeting for over a half million dollars in capital improvements.

The School Committee took the budget in two (2) parts looking at core academic and operations and then additional capital needs. The core academic and operations budget had an increase of .45 percent while the capital improvement budget addressed much-needed improvements and repairs which resulted in 2.54 percent of the increase (total 2.99 percent).

Over the past six years the School Department, in collaboration with the City Council, has been able to leverage state funding, spearhead creative partnerships, seek and earn grant funds, raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations, and provide quality financial management to produce budgets with minimal annual increases.

FY15 – .54 percent
FY16 – 2.56 percent
FY17 – 0 percent
FY18 – (-2.23) percent
FY19 – .08 percent
FY20 – 2.99 percent (.45 percent core academics and operations, 2.54 percent capital improvements)

Over the past six years, the impact of educational spending has only increased the mill rate by approximately 40 cents. These responsible and conservative budget increases have been accomplished without major reductions of positions or program; in fact, we have added new options for students, modernized our transportation fleet, and have addressed the urgent needs of the high school track and Waterhouse Field.

This year, the budget will allow the School Department to maintain smaller class sizes, add an EMT program at the Vocational Center, create positions to help address some of the social/emotional challenges our youngest students endure, renovate the second floor of the Vocational Center, repair parking lots at Biddeford Primary School, implement a study to examine the best options for renovations and improvements at our elementary schools, and other repairs throughout the district.

Throughout this budget process, the School Department has been vigilantly transparent about the items that are included in our budget and the steps we have taken in order to develop this responsible budget.

We have posted all reductions and the detailed budget on the School Department’s website for full transparency and held several public hearings on the matter. The School Department’s Finance Committee reviewed each and every line of the budget for additional scrutiny. Citizens are welcomed to examine the budget detail at any time–from crayons to copiers, staff to sanitation services–every detail is available for your review.

Please take some time to learn as much as you can about the 2019-2020 School Department budget and the budget validation referendum. I am happy to answer any questions that you may have about the process or items in the budget. I want to thank the School Committee, City Council, citizens, and all staff for their hard work and support in reviewing the school budget.

The budget validation vote on June 11, 2019 is your opportunity to have input on the Biddeford School Department’s budget.

Jeremy Ray is the Superintendent of Schools for Biddeford and Dayton.

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