SAD 4 directors approve $7.7M budget for 2022-23

GUILFORD — The SAD 4 school board approved a 2022-23 budget totaling $7,772,120 during an April 12 meeting at Piscataquis Community Elementary School. The spending plan will be presented at the annual district budget meeting on Wednesday, May 25, at PCES.

The $7.7 million gross budget represents an increase of approximately $323,800 from the current academic year, a rise of 4.3 percent. The amount being asked of the six SAD 4 communities totals $3,743,764, composed of $2,888,043 in local required monies, $807,747 in local additional monies and the district’s near $48,000 proportional share of the approximate $411,000 Piscataquis Valley Adult Education Cooperative. 

Nearly a year ago, SAD 4 residents approved a budget with a combined assessment of $3,903,968, or $160,200 more than what is proposed for 2022-23. 

Superintendent Kelly MacFadyen said that additional funds received were used to lower the community’s tax commitment, rather than put in surplus. The revised local assessment ended up being $3,657,702, which is $86,062 less than what is proposed for 2022-23.

MacFadyen said individual town assessments range from a 3.25 percent increase to a 1.25 percent reduction for Wellington. 

Each community has a proportional local required figure, additional local amount and costs for SAD 4’s share of the PVAEC budget.

Guilford would see a $33,808 (3.25 percent) increase to $1,073,635; Sangerville’s $765,714 share is up by $22,562 (3.04 percent); Cambridge’s share is $244,061, up by $7,030 (2.97 percent); Parkman would have a $18,615 (2.62 percent) increase to $728,488; and Abbot would see a $6,655 (0.93 percent) increase to a total of $725,437. Wellington’s assessment of $206,426 is down by $2,610 (1.25 percent).

The total budget approved on the evening of May 25 will be considered in a referendum vote on Tuesday, June 14, at the respective polling places in the district communities.

MacFadyen said residents will be asked on this year’s ballot if they would like to continue with the district budget meeting/referendum process or instead have just the district meeting to finalize the school budget. This question comes up every three years. 

In 2019, SAD 4 residents voted to continue with a referendum to validate the school budget for an additional three years via a 162-83 vote. Guilford was the only town with a majority of no votes (31-27).

In other business, MacFadyen said earlier in the day that legislation passed enabling the regional comprehensive high school project to operate as a community school district.

Those involved in organizing the first of its kind $100 million secondary institution in the state had sought to be a CSD but the Maine Department of Education was no longer approving new CSDs. As a CSD, the regional high school would be allowed to operate as a grade 9-16 district, in contrast to a K-12 school unit.

SAD 4 is working with SAD 46 of Dexter, the Milo-based SAD 41 and RSU 64 of Corinth on the regional comprehensive high school project. No districts are locked in as public votes on formally joining will be taken in the future if the project continues to progress.

Board Chairperson Niki Fortier told her fellow directors that a new planning group for the secondary institution will be forming this spring, made up of three members from each participating school district’s board, along with the four superintendents. 

“These are the people who are going to make the decisions on things that will be voted on,” she said.

“There will be three members of this board appointed to that board,” Fortier said, with this decision likely to be made at next month’s SAD 4 directors meeting.

MacFadyen said once the planning group is formed, it will hire a project engineer to start looking at potential school sites. “It’s going to be exciting, but it’s going to be a lot of work,” she said.

The superintendent said should a suitable location be found then straw votes would be conducted of the community, potentially in November.

Plans for the regional comprehensive high school board are “one person, one vote” with three from each district for a total of 12 directors, who all come from local district school boards. The regional high school would be integrated with a career and technical school along with the University of Maine System and the Maine Community College System, and it would support industry training programs, according to a description on the DOE website.

The state will fund the project, though certain features and customizations to the school would likely need to be funded locally. The school also may offer post-secondary courses to area residents who have already graduated from high school.

Student board representative Matt Chadbourne said spring sports are underway and many high school athletes are taking part in multiple athletic offerings. 

In his board report, PCSS Principal John Keane said in 2022 there has been a huge increase in the number of high-schoolers playing two sports. He explained that students have to first apply to administration and get both coaches and parents to sign off. The students pick a primary sport in which they go to most practices and games, and then a secondary sport where they attend a contest if there is not one on the same day as their primary sport.

Keane said Esports is wrapping up, with the Pirates having a record of 3-8. He said despite the students being on computers, they get very vocal during competitions.

“Louder than any other practice I have been to,” Keane said.

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