TOPSHAM — Anticipating state funding cuts due to the coronavirus pandemic, Maine Administrative District 75 administrators proposed $557,000 in potential savings in next year’s budget to the school board last week.

Of those cuts, $432,000 would be saved by leaving jobs vacant. These include an elementary school librarian, a literacy teacher, a half-time teacher and half-time music teacher at Mt. Ararat Middle School, plus three education technicians.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean this would be the final positions we may not fill if there’s a curtailment,” Superintendent Shawn Chabot told the school board. “If we don’t fill these positions, it will have an educational impact, and there’s no good answer. We’ll just do the very best we can.”

The discussion came after board member Tyler Washburn asked the school district last month to start planning for waves of budget cuts due to the financial implications of the pandemic.

“My big fear is next year we find out we have social-emotional learning issues that we need to address,” Washburn said last week. “Catching folks up in the classroom and a larger reduction could paralyze our ability to reach those students in the way we need in what is honestly the largest budget in the history of our district.”

The board adopted a $46 million budget in April.

Chabot said the district will receive federal funding to help pay for some of those additional needs due to the pandemic. Washburn said he worries it won’t be enough.

School board member Eric Lusk reiterated last week that he believes the district should look for reductions of between $2 million and $4 million.

Chabot said Thursday the district still hasn’t heard from the Maine Department of Education regarding potential funding shortfalls. He said the district is holding off on looking at further reductions until they get an update from the state. He expects there will be more information available in July regarding the economic landscape facing schools.

Business Manager Mark Conrad said last week the district has also looked at non-personnel savings such as by leasing two school buses instead of three and nixing purchase of a van. He believes there will be additional retirements or resignations of staff over the summer, “and as those openings come up we’ll take a close look at those. This is just the first step,” he said.

The districtwide budget meeting is June 25. The budget goes to referendum on July 14.

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