The draft 2020-2021 budget for the Great Salt Bay Consolidated School District is down $392,032.07 or 6.43% from the previous year.
The Great Salt Bay School Committee approved the budget Wednesday, May 13. Expenses total $5,707,935.01.
The budget contains all expenses for K-8 education for the towns of Bremen, Damariscotta, and Newcastle. Each town’s enrollment determines its contribution to the budget.
Under the 2020-2021 budget, Bremen and Damariscotta will contribute less than the previous year, while Newcastle will see a slight increase.
Bremen will pay $676,406.65, down $113,351.26 or 14.35%; Damariscotta $2,137,123.90, down $231,496.43 or 9.77%; and Newcastle $1,773,635.66, up $854.82, essentially remaining flat.
The contributions depend on each town’s number of “average subsidizable pupils” and each town’s valuation.
From last year to the current fiscal year, Newcastle’s share of the GSB student population dropped from 42.77% to 41.58%, Bremen’s dropped from 13.84% to 13.32%, and Damariscotta’s rose from 43.39% to 45.1%.
The district expects its state subsidy to drop from $781,805.67 to $479,773.25, a decrease of $302,032.42 or 38.63%. This comes after the state subsidy for GSB nearly doubled last year, from $398,315 to $781,805.67, due to changes in the state’s biennial budget.
According to Kusturin, state subsidy decreased because of a change in Newcastle’s three-year state valuation. This also caused Newcastle’s share of the budget to increase.
From the state’s perspective, “Newcastle can afford more of the burden,” Kusturin said in an email.
Despite the sharp drop in state subsidy, the decrease in expenses and the use of surplus allowed for lower local contributions.
Much of the overall savings comes from the category for regular education and, within this category, the line item for teacher salaries.
Category expenses total $2,556,335.92, down $194,731.69 or 7.08%. The line item for teacher salaries is $1,747,125.56, down $163,785.94 or 8.57%.
According to Great Salt Bay Community School Principal Kim Schaff, the school will not fill two teaching positions because of lower enrollment numbers and future uncertainty. Both positions are already vacant.
“Based on the current financial situation that we’re anticipating being in, we felt that it was pragmatic not to add the salaries for those two positions into this budget,” Schaff said.
AOS 93 Superintendent Craig Jurgensen said at the May 13 meeting that because of the uncertain fiscal and instructional situation due to the coronavirus, the administration will take extra care as it considers requests for open enrollment, superintendents’ agreements, and tuition-in students.
These agreements allow students who live outside the three GSB towns to attend GSB under certain conditions.
“We are going to have a very different conversation when we make those decisions, trying to preserve, to the best that we can and doing it ethically, the services and the slots for residents of Bremen, Newcastle, and Damariscotta. It does not mean that we’re saying no; it does mean that we’re looking carefully at those requests,” Jurgensen said.
AOS 93 Assistant Superintendent and Business Manager Rick Kusturin said the coronavirus could affect state subsidy and contributions from the three towns.
“If you’re somewhat attuned to state finances and how much money’s going out the door, and the fact that the state has to operate on a balanced budget … it just follows that a curtailment could be in the cards,” Kusturin said.
Kusturin said the municipalities he has been in contact with are all worried about a potential decrease in revenue-sharing from the state.
Under normal circumstances, the GSB budget would now go to an annual budget meeting – a town meeting-style vote where residents of Bremen, Damariscotta, and Newcastle decide whether to approve it.
However, because of the coronavirus emergency and the resulting guidelines for gatherings, Kusturin said he does not know when the meeting will occur.
After approval at the district meeting, the budget will go before each of the three towns in a validation referendum.
Kusturin said the school committee will be able to trim the budget more, if desired, before the district budget meeting.
All three towns are scheduled to hold referendum votes Tuesday, July 14, as part of the secret-ballot portions of their annual town meetings. Those votes will coincide with the state primary.
But Kusturin said towns cannot hold the referendum votes until after the district budget meeting.
“I can’t produce a warrant for the district budget meeting until I’m sure the meeting can be held under social distancing rules and that the meeting can accommodate anyone who wants to attend,” Kusturin said in an email. The district is awaiting state guidance.
“I think it’s a solid budget. I think it meets the needs,” Kusturin said.
Kusturin said it is likely the budget will not be approved by the end of GSB’s fiscal year, July 1, since the referendums are scheduled for July 14.
“We don’t stop business on July 1, even though we don’t have a budget. I know the Legislature has, through the emergency powers, given some flexibility with regard to those budgets as well. Again, we’re not stopping business; people will continue to get paid as they normally are,” Kusturin said.
The other budget expense categories are as follows, in order by amount: special education instruction, $1,300,912.89, up $42,486.70 or 3.38%; facilities maintenance, $441,964.54, down $149,606.80 or 25.29%; school administration, $362,648.53, up $7,046.35 or 1.98%; student and staff, $357,940.05, down $4,994.90 or 1.38%; transportation and buses, $307,318.70, down $91,043.49 or 22.85%; system administration, $169,015.02, up $1,718.70 or 1.03%; other instruction, $132,909.36, down $22,073.49 or 14.24%; and food service subsidy, $78,890, up $19,166.55 or 32.09%.