GRAY — SAD 15 is moving forward with a $28.2 million budget after cutting nearly $380,000 in spending from last month’s version. The proposed budget is an increase of 1.6% from the current year’s $27.8 million budget.

Superintendent Craig King, speaking during the May 6 School Board budget workshop, said that despite the cuts that were made, the “core values” of the school district remain strong.

The proposed budget has no impact on Gray and New Gloucester taxpayers. Finance Committee Chairman Sam Pfeifle said that was a condition of the board when they asked the administration to review the budget last month.

“Most students will not notice a difference. There’s no staff cutting. And I think that’s really remarkable. I think the administration did a remarkable job finding a lot of small ways we could save a little bit of money,” Pfeifle said.

The current fiscal year’s approved local contribution was $16.18 million, approximately 65% of which was paid by Gray and 35% by New Gloucester.

The towns’ local share in the proposed budget is expected to decrease by about $29,000 and $41,000, respectively, from this year’s, Finance Director Diane Boucher said Tuesday.

Neither of the towns’ municipal budgets have been finalized. If the current tax rates for the school district remain the same, taxpayers in Gray can expect to pay $9.22 per $1,000 in property valuation and in New Gloucester, $11.99 per $1,000.

An owner of a $250,000 home in Gray paid $2,305 to the school district this fiscal year. An owner of a home of the same value in New Gloucester paid $2,997.50.

Among the major spending cuts were reductions to capital spending projects and facilities management, as well as funding for summer school and Transition K curriculum development.

Boucher said at last Wednesday’s meeting that it was “very clear we could do that for one year” without long-term repercussions.

She added that with remote instruction taking place because of the coronavirus the district will not have to replace books, equipment and other supplies to the extent it has in the past.

The district’s fuel costs were able to be reduced because of the drop in oil prices and it decided to purchase two vans instead of a new bus.

The district also does not need to hire its usual summer custodial workers because staff has been deep cleaning the schools ever since the switch to remote instruction.

The district decided to put curriculum development for Transition K on hold since the program itself is delayed.

Boucher said summer school funding would be covered by the estimated $280,000 the district will receive in CARES Act funding from the state. Approximately $545,000 in state funding will also help cover revenue losses from tuition, interest and facility usage.

Payroll in the proposed budget dipped because a few staff members who are retiring or leaving the district will not be replaced. King said he was comfortable with that because there has been a slight decline in enrollment.

With the validation processes and date of the town meetings unclear, the School Board decided not to sign warrant articles, given that a vote must take place within 60 days of their signature. However, the board voted unanimously to finalize this version of the budget for Gray and New Gloucester residents to vote on.

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