At the annual education budget meeting this year, Jefferson voters will be asked to approve fixes for some shortfalls in the current budget and approve a proposed 2015-2016 budget which would increase the local share by $487,675 or 14.64 percent.
If the budget is approved, the local increase would actually be larger than the budget’s overall increase, due to an anticipated $206,089 or 11.3 percent decrease in state subsidy for the town, according to school officials and budget documents.
The overall budget is proposed at $5,532,891, an increase of $359,839 or 6.96 percent.
The proposed increase would be somewhat smaller, however, if taken in light of a proposed increase for the 2014-2015 budget.
Two articles in the annual budget meeting warrant relate to addressing shortfalls in the current budget.
One asks to increase the regular instruction budget by $126,616 to $2,142,402 and fund it by utilizing unanticipated revenues and the school department’s undesignated fund balance; the other asks to transfer $12,911 from the transportation category to school administration ($8,911 for a change in the principal’s health plan) and system administration ($4,000 for legal fees).
School officials have been monitoring anticipated shortfalls in various parts of the budget since the fall, brought about by an influx of secondary students to the town, a larger increase to private school tuition than was budgeted for, increased special education costs, and other factors.
After officials used line freezes and identified savings in the budget, the Jefferson School Committee voted at their April 6 meeting to transfer funds between categories to help cover some of the shortfall.
Between several categories, $92,640 was identified in funds projected to be unused but, because of a law limiting the school committee to transfer only up to 5 percent of one category to another, the committee could only transfer $43,855 of the funds without voter approval.
The committee did vote to transfer the $43,855 to cover anticipated shortfalls of $39,470 in special education and about $4,300 of a $131,001 anticipated shortfall in regular instruction.
If approved, the increases and transfers in the warrant articles would cover the remaining shortfalls and ensure the overall budget and each budget category will be in the black at year’s end, according to AOS 93 Superintendent Steve Bailey.
In the proposed 2015-2016 budget,
regular instruction and special education instruction make up the bulk of the overall increase.
Regular instruction is proposed at $2,215,338, up $199,552 or 9.9 percent; special education is proposed at $932,512, up $179,601 or 23.85 percent.
Just over $40,000 in salary and other costs for an existing half-time social worker position were changed over from regular instruction to special education in the proposed budget, mitigating and exacerbating the increases in those respective categories.
In regular instruction, the teacher salary line is proposed to decrease by $6,363 or 0.89 percent, despite the addition of $42,487 for an additional proposed teaching position.
The line is offset not only due to the social worker position being transferred, but due to the retirement of a teacher and the school committee’s decision last August to add two educational technicians instead of increasing teaching positions for “specials,” or physical education, art, and music, from half-time positions to 80 percent of full time as was originally budgeted for.
The salary line for education technicians is up $29,486, essentially due to the above-mentioned ed tech positions, according to Bailey.
The role of the proposed additional teacher was debated by the Jefferson School Committee and the Jefferson Budget Committee at their joint meeting April 30.
Jefferson Village School Principal Peter Gallace proposed to utilize the teacher in either kindergarten or third grade, splitting that class and using an educational technician to supplement in whichever grade did not get the teacher.
The discussion went into theories on how many students teachers and educational technicians should be able to handle, whether staff assignments should be based on more than just class sizes, and whether the new teaching position (or a new teacher replacing a retiree) should be a math specialist to work in grades five through eight.
Gallace said he liked the concern for the students’ education, but cautioned that kindergarten is a very important year because it can affect the rest of a student’s education career.
Current kindergarten students vary from reading books to not yet being able to write the alphabet, Gallace said. Some need interventions to catch up, while others need to be challenged, he said.
There is also a “huge difference” between teaching a given number of children, as opposed to managing them, he said.
Budget committee member Wayne Parlin was opposed to adding a teacher, saying it puts Jefferson Village School two teachers beyond the state’s essential programs and services funding model.
The teacher health insurance line is proposed to increase by $42,601 or 32.08 percent to $175,402. Along with a 2 percent rate increase, the line includes contingencies for the new teacher and replacement teacher to utilize family health plans, and a pro-rated health plan for a replacement half-time music teacher, according to Bailey.
More than half the increase to regular instruction is due to a proposed increase in funding for secondary students attending private schools.
Tuition and an “insured value factor” paid to private schools for capital costs, the two lines for such students, are proposed to increase a total of $105,539 or 11.83 percent.
The lines include the 6 percent tuition rate increase this year (only a 4 percent increase was budgeted for) as well as an anticipated 6 percent increase next year.
The lines originally included contingency funds for four students, but the school committee voted 3-2 to cut two contingencies, or about $22,000, from the budget after Parlin suggested it as an area to cut.
School committee member Joan Jackson, who voted against the cut with member Bob Westrich, said it would be easier to include the funds ahead of time in case students move to town.
“I’d like to eliminate the hassle we’ve had for the last six months,” she said.
The special education increase is largely due to just over $160,000 in tuition for special education students.
The budget increase includes $130,000 for out-of-district placements for two secondary students, as well as $31,428 for such placements at the elementary level, officials said.
The special education budget also includes a previously unbudgeted expense of $36,000 for MaineCare seed payments anticipated to be withheld from subsidy for certain services given to special education students in out-of-district programs.
The largest decrease in the category by far is $55,876 in the special services teacher salary line, due to the elimination of one position from Jefferson Village School’s resource room.
The school committee voted April 28 to eliminate the position after a discussion on the teachers’ caseloads and approval from both Gallace and Bailey, Bailey said.
The warrant article for the overall proposed budget was unanimously recommended by the school committee, but the budget committee voted five to three not to recommend the article.
The budget categories are proposed as follows, along with changes versus the current unamended budget and the school committee and budget committee votes, respectively:
• Regular instruction: $2,215,338, up $199,552 or 9.9 percent (voted 4-1, 4-4).
• Special education instruction: $932,512, up $179,601 or 23.85 percent (voted 5-0, 6-2).
• Career and technical education: $4,000, down $9,082 or 69.42 percent (vote 5-0, 8-0).
• Other instruction: $30,146, up $1,408 or 4.9 percent (voted 5-0, 8-0).
• Student and staff support: $148,777, down $20,751 or 12.24 percent (voted 5-0, 8-0).
• System administration: $116,087, up $3,865 or 3.44 percent (voted 5-0, 7-1).
• School administration: $166,801, up $9,784 or 6.23 percent voted 5-0, 7-1).
• Transportation and buses: $486,596, up $30,814 or 6.76 percent (voted 5-0, 6-2).
• Facilities maintenance: $261,278, down $26,031 or 9.06 percent (voted 5-0, 8-0).
• Debt service and other: $1,143,809, down $18,009 or 1.55 percent (voted 5-0, 8-0).
• All other expenditures: $27,546, up $8,687 or 46.06 percent (voted 5-0, 8-0).
The annual budget meeting for both the amendments to the current budget as well as the proposed 2015-2016 budget is scheduled for Tuesday, May 19 at 6 p.m.
The budget validation referendum to approve the budgets adopted May 19 is scheduled for Tuesday, June 2.