$7.8M figure set for Thursday’s referendum

By Stuart Hedstrom 
Staff Writer
    MILO — Residents of SAD 41 gave their approval to a 2013-14 school budget totaling $7,841,319 during the district meeting on June 20 at Penquis Valley High School. This figure represents a decrease of a little more than $168,000 from the over $8 million total approved for the current academic year.

    Superintendent Michael Wright explained that the essential programs and services (EPS) subsidy received from the state is nearly $35,000 more than the year before, at a figure of about $4,652,000. “This year the local required amount was up as well,” he said, by about $25,500 to just over $2 million.
    For the four SAD 41 communities, Milo’s share is down by just over $19,500 to a total of just under $900,000, but the other three towns would all have an increase in what needs to be contributed toward the SAD 41 spending plan. These figures are an approximate $20,550 increase for Brownville for an amount of about $553,000, an over $16,500 increase for LaGrange for a total of about $343,700 and Atkinson would see an increase of slightly less than $8,000 to bring its portion of the budget to just under $206,000.
    “For this district we had a 13 percent increase for Anthem, which is at the high end for the state,” he said about an expense in the budget. “It’s all based on your usage for Anthem for the past year.” The 2014 academic year budget also includes a 2.5 percent raise for employees and $100,000 in retirement costs has been passed from the state onto SAD 41.
    “We were able to reduce the undesignated fund balance, and we are only using about half of what we have,” Wright said. The proposed budget has a figure of $550,000 used from the balance, a $218,000 decrease from the sum of $768,000 used for 2012-13.
    An expansion of the pre-kindergarten program will bring in an extra $100,000 for SAD 41, and increasing the enrollment of the youngest students is part of a district-wide realignment plan which is aimed to benefit both students and the SAD 41 coffers. Next year the Marion C. Cook School in LaGrange will house both an alternate high school program and a behavior program with the K-5 students attending Milo Elementary and all sixth-graders going to the Penquis Valley School.   
    Wright said seven SAD 41 teachers are retiring — who have combined for over 250 years in the classroom — “and we were able to realign our district in order to not fill five of those.”
    He said SAD 41’s assessment for AOS 43 is $45,000 less than last year, another savings in the 2014 fiscal year budget. “When you add up all those challenges and all those challenges you met, you were able to come in with a budget $168,154 less than last year’s,” Wright said.
    After the information session of the meeting, all 13 warrant items were approved to send the budget out to a referendum vote on Thursday, June 27. This includes the $322,537 in local additional funds which legally had to be voted on by written ballot — passing by a 17-1 vote.
    Wright said the ballot on June 27 will include two questions, one asking if the $7,841,319 budget will be approved and the second asking if SAD 41 residents want to continue with the current voting process. “Every three years that has to come on to the referendum,” he said.
    A yes vote means the validation process, the district budget meeting and then a referendum on the approved spending plan, will continue for the next three years, while a no vote will discontinue the process for the ensuing three years.

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