More than 21 teaching positions, more than 20 support staff positions, several administrative posts and 24 stipend jobs would be eliminated under a budget being developed by the Regional School Unit 13 administration.

Superintendent Judy Lucarelli announced her recommendations for elimination of positions at the RSU 13 board meeting March 4.

The staff cuts alone would result in savings of about $1.9 million. Lucarelli said she is also proposing that no new buses be purchased this year. And the district received word this week that health insurance costs for staff would rise only 2 percent compared with the 8 to 10 percent that had been originally projected. There are also cuts being proposed for books and supplies.

Lucarelli said she has not yet reached the amount of cuts needed to achieve the directive given to her last month by the RSU 13 board — that would limit to 3 percent the increase in the amount of property taxes to be billed to the six communities. But, she said, she was close to that goal and would reach it by the April 5 meeting where she will present the proposed 2010-2011 budget to the board.

The district is facing a gap between its expenses and projected revenues of more than $3 million. Lucarelli said the district may receive an additional $110,000 to $180,000 from a partial restoration of state education aid announced March 3 by Gov. John Baldacci.

The proposed elimination of positions cuts across all the schools and programs. A few positions were already vacant and will not result in layoffs.

In order to reduce layoffs further, the board also agreed to extend until April 1 an offer to pay $10,000 to any teacher who is eligible for retirement if they retire. Lucarelli said eight teachers have taken the district up on the offer and another teacher has filed a request that will be considered with the extension voted by the board. Teachers under the Maine School Administrative District 5 contract also receive an additional $3,000 payment upon retirement.

Board member James Kalloch of Rockland asked how the board would go about asking the labor unions to consider pay cuts of 5 to 10 percent to reduce the layoffs.

Lucarelli said the board could direct its negotiations committee — in a closed door session — to make offers.

“We can’t even discuss [in open session] whether this has been discussed,” Lucarelli said. She also said that such an offer cannot be made publicly because it would be considered bad faith bargaining.

The district is in the midst of negotiations with all its employees. Lucarelli said, however, that she could not gamble by basing her budget on a reduction in pay since the contracts may not be settled before the budget is voted on.

During the public comment session of the March 4 meeting, former Rockland District Middle School Principal Tom Mellor presented the board with a petition signed by 289 people opposed to the consolidation of Rockland District High School and Georges Valley High School in the fall of 2011.

Mellor also urged the administration to voluntarily take a 4 to 6 percent pay cut and said that maybe teachers would follow suit to save positions.

Bill Reinhardt, the chairman of the St. George Select Board, said with contracts expired with teachers, this was the opportunity for the district to make dramatic changes in how teachers are compensated to include a merit component.

Reinhardt said for the amount of money that communities pay for education, the public should be getting better results. He urged the board, however, not to gut the core teaching positions in the district.

The superintendent said her main priority in making the cuts was to protect as many classroom teaching positions as possible. The classroom teaching positions that are in the proposed list of cuts are being eliminated because the district agreed to increase class sizes. The superintendent said she also would recommend changing the course requirement for students to graduate to be in line with the state’s requirement. Since the district had been requiring more courses this would allow some of the teaching positions to be cut.

Classes at the high school with fewer than 10 students, if not required, were also used to determine where staff cuts could be made.

Spanish in Rockland elementary schools would be eliminated under the proposal.

And in sports, cheering at Rockland District High School and Rockland District Middle School would be eliminated.

“It’s been a very difficult process,” Lucarelli said, adding that all the people in the positions are valuable and serve the children well. “But these are the times we’re in.”

The proposed administrative cuts include the elimination of the Gilford Butler School principal. Under the proposal, the principal of the St. George School would also be principal for Gilford Butler. The elimination of the MacDougal School principal post was already expected with the decision by the board and public to close the Rockland elementary school. One of two district business manager positions would be eliminated but it has been vacant since the retirement of John Spear.

One administrative assistant to the superintendent would also be eliminated. Lucarelli announced that Sharon Spaulding, who has served every superintendent in SAD 5 and now RSU 13 for 35 years, is retiring and her position would be the post eliminated. Josephine Talbot, secretary at the high school, is also retiring and her position would be eliminated.

The teaching positions that would be eliminated include ones in kindergarten, second grade, third grade and fourth grade at the South School in Rockland. Art, English and math teaching positions at RDHS are also on the cutting block.

Two art students spoke to the board about the importance that art has had for them and asked for the position to be saved. Alayna Smith and Rose Hohfeld talked about the importance of an art education.

Lucarelli said she agreed about the importance of art but very difficult decisions had to be made because of the financial situation.

A gifted and talented district-wide teaching post would be eliminated as would positions for an alternative education teacher at the middle school, an elementary librarian and a social worker — all in the former SAD 5 schools.

Lucarelli said that when the two districts were formed to create RSU 13 it was known that the SAD 50 schools raised more local money above the state requirement in order to offer additional programs. She said she took that into consideration when making cuts, saying that the districts had agreed that the former SAD 50 communities (Thomaston, St. George and Cushing) would  get to keep some additional programs compared with the former SAD 5 communities.

A computer education teaching position, a junior journey post and a vocal music post would be either eliminated or reduced under the proposed cuts at GVHS.

Veteran music teacher Marlene Hall is one of the teachers accepting the retirement incentive and the remaining positions will be reorganized, Lucarelli said. Hall has been with SAD 5 and now the RSU for 36 years.

Also taking the retirement incentive were second-grade teacher Jennifer Woodward who has been with the district 24 years, kindergarten teacher Linda Gundel who has been with the district 18 years, guidance counselor Rick Bernard with 33 years in the district, grade six teacher Marsha Bird with 33 years in the district, foreign language teacher Mary June Smith with 29 years in the district, and library/media specialist Susan Cerridwen.

In total, the superintendent’s recommended position cuts for the 2010-11 budget compared with the budget approved for 2009-2010 are five full-time equivalent administrative positions, 21.8 full-time equivalent teaching positions, 24 stipend positions, and 135 hours per day of support staff time. Some of the positions would be cut from full time to part time and some hourly people would see their hours reduced.