Camden Hills Regional High School administrators presented their four tiers of possible expenditure cuts to the Five Town Community School District Finance Committee March 3, proposing reductions that range from eliminating teaching positions to cutting specific sports, such as swimming, track and lacrosse.

Revenue-producing ideas were also tossed on the table, such as charging parking, transportation and pay-to-play fees.

The Five Town CSD board encourages students, community members and school staff to send comments or questions to its e-mail address, csdpass@fivetowns.net. Rockport board member Geoffrey Parker invites phone calls of interested citizens at 236-3637.

The March 3 meeting took place in the chorus room at the high school on Route 90 in Rockport, beginning at 5 p.m., and preceded the regularly scheduled full board meeting at 7 p.m. The meeting drew a roomful of concerned teachers and community members, who took turns approaching the podium to request information, encourage fiscal responsibility and urge full scrutiny of the budget-trimming proposals.

“These tiers are not a done deal,” said Five Town CSD Assistant Superintendent Mike Weatherwax.

Some of the potential cuts presented include:

TIER ONE, TOTALING $352,573

Cut a math position, which would affect the industrial technology department at the high school.

Cut a tech-theater position, reducing theater courses

Reduce assistant superintendent time

Do not fill a part-time Latin teacher; offer fewer Latin classes

Cut technology purchases

Cut tutor, educational technician, library staff, custodial staff, receptionist, and counselor time and positions

Close the buildings on holidays and Sundays

Cut Diversity Coalition Club, mock trial club

Cut track


TIER TWO, TOTALING $256,116

Cut freshman soccer and basketball, junior varsity tennis and lacrosse, varsity swimming and lacrosse

Reduce the number of school days from 177 to 175, the number required by state law

Cut food service

Discontinue organic field maintenance practices

Cut special education administration

Cut math, science, English, and business teaching positions


TIER THREE, TOTALING $587,252

Cut art, French, industrial technology, family consumer science, alternative education and Horizons teaching positions

Cut more education technician and secretarial positions

Cut all athletic and extracurricular programs and some administrators

Reduce contracts with building administrators

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TIER FOUR, TOTALING $282,800

Cut more teaching positions, including Spanish, music and business

Reduce hours of superintendent’s office

Reduce psychological examiner’s time

Cut board stipends

Potential revenue streams discussed included charging students a $25 activity fee, a parking fee, a transportation fee or a pay-to-play fee.

There is also an idea to redirect the funds used annually to take the juniors on a week-long, all expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., which costs between $80,000 and $100,000. The trip is entirely funded via the district’s Bisbee Fund, a trust fund that got increasingly robust with the stock market’s good years. If pursued, that proposal would have to proceed through probate court for resolution.

The tiered cuts were presented as a printed spreadsheet with a short explanation about how they were reached. On Saturday, March 6, the finance committee will meet from 9 a.m. to noon in the chorus room at the high school to proceed through the suggested cuts line by line, and the public is encouraged to attend that meeting.

The public and board members also requested that the administrators present a bigger context surrounding the proposed cuts, with fuller budget numbers indicating from where the cuts derive.

At the March 3 meeting, no votes were taken and no recommendations were made, although the committee did discuss philosophically how to approach the revenue shortfall. The board likewise held such a discussion in its meeting later in the night, with some board members advocating strongly for protecting the quality of education and others recognizing the cumulative effect on taxpayers during a recession and a time when state education funding fluctuates according to politics and continuous accounting machinations.

“Public education is the framework on which you build a democracy,” said board member John Lewis of Camden, who advocated throughout the meeting for protecting educational quality.

“We have a really good school system that we are all proud of,” he said.

As the full board later discussed the finance committee meeting, members concluded that it was their obligation to not only scrutinize the budget and the proposed tiered cuts, but to also be responsible to taxpayers whose taxes increase as general state revenue sharing decreases.

Neither the board nor the finance committee targeted overall dollar amounts to trim from the budget.

The majority of the Five Town CSD board members attended the March 3 finance committee meeting to hear about the cuts, which reflect an especially severe budget season for the district that faces a $1.3 million reduction in state and federal funding, down half from the $2.5 million state aid the Maine Department of Education committed to the Five Town CSD in 2009-2010.

Despite the various revenue sources, such as tuition from out-of-district students or rental of the high school’s Strom Auditorium, taxpayers still face a $1.1 million increase on their part to pay for the high school.

The $1.3 million state subsidy loss also includes $225,980 in penalties assessed to the taxpayers for not proceeding last year with reorganizing the five towns of Appleton, Camden, Hope, Lincolnville and Rockport into one kindergarten to 12th-grade school district.

The five towns send 658 students to the high school, constructed in 1999. Enrollment has dropped from its high of approximately 745 in 2002 while its budget and number of staff have increased. In 2003, the high school budget was $9.8 million; the current proposed budget is $11.5 million, a number that has held steady for the past two years, even showing slight decreases. This year’s proposed decrease is $13,909.

Camden Hills enrollment is not expected to change dramatically over the next few years, according to Michael Weatherwax, assistant superintendent, who said March 3 that it may increase or decrease by five or six students.

Sending schools have the following enrollment as of March:

Appleton

eighth grade, 12

fifth grade, 18

kindergarten, 7

Camden-Rockport

eighth grade, 120

fifth grade, 80

kindergarten, 63

Hope

eighth grade, 19

fourth grade, 26

kindergarten, 17

Lincolnville

eighth grade, 28

fourth grade, 17

kindergarten, 19

On March 3, just prior to the finance committee meeting, the superintendent’s office received word that the Maine Department of Education and the governor’s office were restoring $20 million in funding to school districts across the state, and promising $97,000 more to the Five Town CSD.

The proposed 2010-2011 budget of $11.5 million includes a 10 percent increase in anticipated health insurance costs. It does not include salary increases for teachers or administrators. Teachers and some staff are currently in contract negotiations and the outcome of those talks is not expected to be made public until next month.

 

The 2010-2011 budget

Of the $11.5 million budget, the line accounts and expenditures break down as follows:

Regular 9-12 instruction, $3.8 million

Special education, $1.3 million

Vocational education (Mid-Coast School of Technology, Rockland), $894,277. According to Weatherwax, the cost of sending students to the regional school is apportioned according to the enrollment of the junior and senior classes of the sending schools. The Five Town CSD’s share of the technology school’s budget is currently 33 percent. Approximately 55 to 78 five town students participate in vocational programs at the Mid-Coast School of Technology. The students spend half a day at Camden Hills and half a day in Rockland. Over the past three years, the number of students attending MCST has dropped.

Support, $1,4 million

Other instruction, $401,723

Administration, $777,689

Transportation, $416,777

Operations and maintenance, $1.2 million

Debt, $1.5 million

According to Five Town CSD Finance Director Kathy Murphy, the projected increase for taxpayers with the $11.5 million budget would break down accordingly, per $100,000 of property valuation:

Appleton, $56.76. If an Appleton homeowner’s property is assessed at $100,000, the increase in tax payment for that citizen just to pay for the high school would be $56.76; if the property is assessed at $200,000, the Five Town CSD portion of the person’s tax bill would be $113.42.

In Camden, the property owner owning a home assessed at $100,000 would pay $20.76 more; in Hope, $27.15 more; in Lincolnville, $69.30 more; and in Rockport, $69.25.

A town’s share of funding a school is based on the property valuation totals with a given municipality. Appleton had a revaluation completed last year and its total value, according to the state, increased, just as Lincolnville’s did in 2008-09.

“These are by no means exact numbers,” said Murphy. “We do this just to give people a sense.”