Two local school committees are struggling to keep costs manageable for the upcoming school year.

With an anticipated decrease in state funding, as well as the possibility of municipalities having to take on funding of teachers' retirement plans, local school boards are looking at initial budgets with increases ranging from more than 5 percent to more than 8 percent. The boards already have made several rounds of suggested budget cuts, decreasing the potential budget increases to between 2 and 3 percent.

Public meetings are scheduled for March 13 at Camden Hills Regional High School. Those interested in the School Administrative District 28 budget are invited to attend from 6 to 7:30 p.m.; Five Town Community School District budget talks are scheduled to take place from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Both meetings will take place in the chorus room.

"We're looking for input before it's finalized during the formation of the budget," Superintendent Elaine Nutter said. "People can hear an overview presented by the boards."

Nutter noted all budget information also is available online at fivetowns.net.

SAD 28

The largest increase in the SAD school budget — for Camden and Rockport students in kindergarten through eighth grade — this year is based on a still unclear state plan to stop funding teacher retirement funds, Nutter said.

The state subsidy to the SAD — already a minimum receiver district — also is expected to decrease, she said.

She said there is potential for staff cuts this year, but said she would be speaking with any staff members impacted by budget cuts early on in the process.

SAD 28 School Board Chairman Tori Manzi said March 7 there is potential for the loss of a physical education/health teacher, a special education teacher as well as a councilor. Several other positions would see a reduction in hours. She said retiring teachers will save the district money because new teacher salaries are generally lower than those for experienced teachers.

Another issue that's been put off for years also is expected to draw debate during the budget process. Money has been set aside for a study of Camden-Rockport Middle School, Nutter said.

"This is a project that's been under discussion for some time," she said, adding the study will allow school officials to determine and prioritize renovations to the former high school. "I think in the long run, it's more fiscally prudent."

Nutter said there is the potential for a decreased footprint of the building with renovations and noted there are parts of the middle school that go unused. She said she does not anticipate any state funding to be available for improvements at the middle school.

Five Town CSD

"The CSD side is in a similar situation [to MSAD 28]," Nutter said, adding the projected subsidy funding from the state is slightly better for the CSD, which includes five towns that send students to Camden Hills Regional High School.

Five Town CSD board chairman Gretchen Richards said March 7 about $185,000 in cuts have been suggested in the first round. The second round of suggested cuts includes staff as well as all freshmen sports, but Richards said those are not likely to happen.

Courier Publications Associate Editor Stephanie Grinnell can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at sgrinnell@courierpublicationsllc.com.