Gardiner area school officials examine reasons for increased school budget

GARDINER – Maine School Administrative District 11 held a public hearing Tuesday night to discuss the proposed budget of $ 26,824,000, an increase of $ 663,000 – or 2.53% – over last year’s budget.

MSAD 11 Superintendent Pat Hopkins and Commercial Director Andrea Disch explained why the budget increases, citing wages, an increase in insurance and an expansion of the special education program. While the expenditure plan for the 2021-2022 school year increases by 2.53%, the first try in February, spending rose 5.4%.

Residents of member municipalities in the district – Gardiner, Pittston, Randolph and West Gardiner – will vote on the budget on June 8.

This graph shows the impact on taxpayers if the spending plan proposed for 2021-2022 by Maine School Administrative District 11 is approved by voters on June 8. Zoom

Currently, the city’s proposed budget allocation for next year is $ 10,607,598, a 6.35% increase from last year.

There were only a few spectators in the virtual meeting audience, and only one asked questions. They asked Disch to break down areas of the budget, mostly related to salaries. The audience member asked about the reasons for the increases in salaries and benefits of the school system and administration.

Disch and Hopkins said 80% of the MSAD 11 budget goes to salaries. It is proposed to increase the budget item for system administration by $ 25,811 and that of school administration by $ 79,003. Disch said part of the increase in school administration is the addition of a part-time assistant principal position at the Helen Thompson School.

“Keep in mind that many of the staff are residents of MSAD 11,” Hopkins said, “so the dollars go back into the local economy. “

The state’s $ 40,000 starting minimum wage for educators is part of the reason wages are rising, Disch said. Going forward, she noted, if the minimum wage for schools increased to $ 16 an hour – MSAD 11 currently pays a minimum hourly wage of $ 12.50 – that would be “the whole increase.” .

Disch said that although the district received an additional $ 58,000 in state grants for the next year, the insurance rate for staff increased by 4%.

“For every 1% increase, that’s about $ 32,000,” she said. “For 4%, that absorbed additional state funding this year.”

Gov. Janet Mills proposed a state budget that would include funding public schools at 55 percent of essential service costs, a promise voters approved nearly two decades ago that has never been delivered. Disch said expenses not covered by state funding are paid by the local allowance to member municipalities of the school district.

If the state provides funding at the 55% level, she said, this could potentially lead to a decrease in the local share of cities.

This graph shows the impact to the Maine School Administrative District 11 budget if the state legislature approves a proposal to provide more funding to public schools. Screenshot via Zoom

If Mills’ proposal is approved, MSAD 11 could receive up to $ 608,000 more in funding. The district finance committee has already discussed using $ 358,000 of this amount to reduce the city’s allocation and impact on taxpayers. The remainder of the money would be put in a capital reserve account, with the approval of the voters.

MSAD 11 has also expanded its Kindergarten to Grade 5 autism program, “in the hopes that we reduce the requirements outside the district,” said Disch.

The cost of special education this year is $ 4,335,121 and the largest budget increase is $ 282,059, or 6.96%.

“When a special education student has an IEP (Individualized Education Program) and the district can’t provide their IEP, we need to send the students out of the district,” Disch said. “For an idea, when we send students, we have students whose tuition is around $ 100,000 in a single year, and for a student, transportation was $ 75,000. A single IEP can cost as much as $ 200,000 in a single year, so we hope to reduce that. “

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