SAD 4 board approves near $9.3M 2024-25 budget

GUILFORD — The SAD 4 School Board, via a vote of 12-4, approved a proposed $9,271,138 budget for the 2024-25 academic year during a meeting on Tuesday, April 9 at Piscataquis Community Elementary School. The nearly $9.3 million figure is up by just under $800,000 (9.42 percent) from 2023-24.

Superintendent Kelly MacFadyen said when work began on the finances for 2024-25 the budget was up by about 13 percent. She said to help reduce the increase, one middle school position and a grade 4 teacher were cut. 

“Fortunately because of transfers and retirements that meant not anybody losing their job and that was a good thing,” the superintendent said. She said a passenger van was cut from the second version of the budget to help get down to 11 percent and then the 9.42 increase currently being proposed.

“It’s difficult because all costs are increasing but our revenues are not,’ MacFadyen said, noting other school districts are facing similar problems.

“We really felt like this current budget meets the needs of our kids to maintain the education they are currently receiving,” she said.

Going through a budget summary with expenses divided into 11 articles, MacFadyen said special education is up by more than $422,700 (28.03 percent) to $1,931,120. “The majority of that is from out of state placements,” she said, adding SAD 4 gets the bulk of these expenses for residential programs it can’t provide back in subsidies. 

The superintendent said the district’s proportional share of the Tri-County Technical Center budget has nearly doubled from $26,000 to $46,551 (about 79 percent) in part due to start-up costs for a welding program being offered at the Dexter-based institution.

SAD 4 is set to receive $3.4 million-plus from the state for the 2024-25 budget, about $420,811 (14.1 percent) more than in 2023-24.

In order to receive the $3.4 million, SAD 4 would be required to raise $2,953,513 proportionally across the six district communities. The budget includes another $1,920,929 in local additional monies and SAD 4’s proportional $50,149 share of the Piscataquis Valley Adult Education Cooperative.

These combined totals equal a proposed local assessment of $4,924,591, an increase of $431,779 from 2023-24’s near $4.5 million.

Each community has a proportional local required figure, additional local amount, and its costs for the PVAEC. All district six towns would see an increased assessment. 

Abbot would have a $68,971 (7.9 percent) increase in its assessment to $942,161; Cambridge’s $343,727 share of the SAD 4 budget is up $36,991 (12.06 percent); Guilford’s share is $1,353,088, up by $106,322 (8.53 percent); Parkman would have a $76,609 (8.79 percent) increase to $948,520; Sangerville’s $1,067,705 share is up $121,158 (12.8 percent); and Wellington’s $268,954 assessment represents a $21,726 (8.79 percent) increase from 2023-24.

The directors scheduled the annual district budget meeting for Wednesday, May 22. In years past this has been held at PCES at 7 p.m. with an information session beforehand. The total budget approved that evening will be moved to a referendum vote in the six SAD 4 towns on Tuesday, June 11.

In other business, the board heard about progress being made to get the baseball field repaired after the town-owned playing surface next to the Piscataquis River sustained damage in winter flooding.

Transportation Director Nick Chambers said big strides have been made without SAD 4 needing to expend money. He said Guilford Hardware has contributed grid stakes and lumber to hold up much of the fence and the town has purchased some posts. 

Chambers said a combination of Puritan Medical Products and/or Hardwood Products has donated $10,000 to rebuild the pitcher’s mound at the Dave Gaw Diamond as well as other site work.

“We will be able to play games there, just not the first four,” Chambers said.

“It’s always a challenge because the town owns it and we use it,” MacFadyen said.

She said during a recent facilities committee group meeting members said they did not support obligating significant funds toward fixing the field. The consensus was that if large sums of money are put toward the field then a new playing area should be built on high ground behind PCES.

Currently the PCHS baseball team has a player from Greenville on the roster while five PCHS girls are playing softball for Greenville as both schools had low numbers of students interested in the respective sports.

In his board report, Athletic Director Andy Shorey said the Greenville players, coaches, and athletic director have been incredibly welcoming and “when talking with the girls they are very much enjoying playing up there. I do believe that we will have a team next year as we have great numbers on our middle school softball team.”

Mentioning the Greenville player on the Pirate baseball roster Shorey wrote, “It has been a great partnership so far.”

MacFadyen mentioned the regional comprehensive high school project as several years ago representatives from SAD 4, SAD 41 of Milo, the Dexter-based SAD 46, and RSU 64 of Corinth met with the Maine Department of Education and were told they needed to cover the estimated $800,000 costs of an engineering study and other planning efforts before receiving $100 million in state funding to build the project. MDOE officials said the state would not fund the planning expenses, with these instead to be divided between the school units.

No districts were locked in as public votes on formally joining would be taken in the future if the project progresses.

The four districts were hesitant to spend around $200,000 apiece, and since the possibility of the MDOE funding a to-be-determined portion of the costs has been raised.

More than a half decade ago SAD 46 headed up an application between itself and SAD 4 for a $100 million first-of-its-kind secondary institution 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. Later on in the process SAD 41 joined in a non-binding agreement and then RSU 64. 

At first projects based in the Madawaska and Houlton areas ranked higher, but these proposed schools did not progress as residents could not agree on where to put the building.

MacFayden said SAD 4 may want to consider a collaboration with SAD 46 through the opening of a capital construction project with MDOE. She said the facilities committees in each district feel this is worthwhile and agreed to meet to discuss further.

“We are feeling like we need to keep all doors open and consider all possibilities,” she said. 

Piscataquis Community Secondary School Principal John Keane announced Scott Chadbourne as the Class of 2024 valedictorian and Zachariah Demmer as the salutatorian. Keane said he and Chadbourne recently attended an honors luncheon at Jeff’s Catering in Brewer recognizing MPA Principal’s Award recipients from across the state.

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