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School Board Public Hearing 03/15/2010

Lake Region School District
Budget Public Hearing
March 15, 2010


There was a Public Hearing of the Lake Region School Board on Monday, March 15, 2010 at 6:00 p.m. in the gym at Lake Region High School .

Board members present were:  Wayne Warner, Sr., Chairperson, Janice Barter, Mody Botros, Beth Chaplin, Jean Clancy, John Fillmore-Patrick, Jody Gray, Richard Merritt, Laura Ordway, Philip Shane, Nikki South, Janet Ver Planck, and Patrick Phillips, Superintendent of Schools.

Chairperson Warner welcomed everyone.  He explained that Superintendent Phillips and Sherrie Weese would do an overview of the budget and then the meeting would be opened for public comments.  He asked people to speak for no more than 5 minutes.  

Superintendent Phillips shared the following information:

  • Sherrie Weese, the Financial Coordinator and the administrators were thanked for their work on the budget.  
  • The following two conditions have made budgeting very difficult:
  • A decrease in State subsidy due to the property base
  • A weak State economy caused a curtailment of $434,000 in the middle of the year  
  • The Administrators have tried their best to preserve the educational programs and be cautious about expenditures that are not necessary.  
Sherrie Weese shared a powerpoint presentation and highlighted the following information:   

  • The total general fund budget after reductions equals $25,111,886.00.  This is a budget decrease of 1.26% over 2009-10.  With the inclusion of the reduction of $4,533 in the Adult Education program there is a total budget decrease of 1.46%.
  • Property values are still increasing which directly affect the State subsidy the District receives.
  • Decreasing State revenues have caused a curtailment (reduction in funds received) by the State for the past two years.
  • The weak local economy makes it difficult to increase taxes.
  • Inflationary expenditure increases (i.e. health insurance).
ARRA funds
  • ARRA State Fiscal Stabilization Funds were partially used to offset the State revenue shortfalls. ($2,070,004 for 2008-09 and 2009-10).
  • ARRA Title I, Local Entitlement (IDEA) and Title IIA funding is in addition to our existing budget.  (Approximately $816,436 for 2010 and 2011.)
Key Questions for 2010-11
  • Will more stimulus money be passed by Congress?
  • An additional amount of $141,497 was proposed to be added to the District’s subsidy from the State for 2010-11.  This money has to be approved by the Legislature.
  • Health Insurance was budgeted for 10% and the District was notified on April 3 that there will be a 2% increase.  This is a savings of $181,000.
  • The Board will need to decide how to use these additional funds.  
  • A chart showing Town Valuation increases since 2004 was shared.
  • A chart showing State Subsidy by Town was shared.
  • In 2009-10, Bridgton and Sebago become “minimum receivers” which means that the State feels the towns can raise the funds that are needed to support the budget and no subsidy is given to those towns.
 
Revenue
  • The District will receive approximately $900,000 less in State subsidy.
  • Naples becomes a “minimum receiver” in 2010-11 but because of a loophole, is getting $220,516 in a minimum special education adjustment.
  • Once all 4 towns in M.S.A.D. #61 become “Minimum Receivers”, State subsidy will consist of only special education reimbursement, which is currently 40% of the District’s special education expenditures.  (Approximately $1,036,017 for 2010-11).
  • ARRA funds will most likely not be available after 2010-11.
  • The District could lose up to $500,000 in Medicaid reimbursements due to a change in regulations and stricter billing requirements.
Expenditure Budget

  • Administrators were asked to bring in a level-funded budget not including salaries and benefits.
  • When the level funded budgets were complete, the bottom line was up 1.6% or $413,00 (due to contractual salary/benefit increases.)
  • This would have been larger without the facilities and energy savings/efficiencies that we have been implemented over the past 3 years.
  • Cuts to Achieve a -1.26% Budget Decrease include:
  • 3 Teachers K-12                                         $125,000
  • ½ hour per day reduction to ed techs                      100,000
  • High School supplies/books/equipment/postage                41,000
  • Maintenance projects (roofs) ARRA                         110,000
  • Middle School field trips/equipment/guidance secretary        7,000
  • MS Librarian to Ed. Tech. III                               15,000
  • Stipends/personnel District-wide                                    23,607
  • Part-time Clerk at SES/equip                                  6,610
  • Technology equipment (Use ARRA funds)               50,000
  • Special Education personnel (Use ARRA funds)                35,140
  • Central Office personnel                                              7,000
  • Transportation Safety Trainer reduced                         5,300
  • Custodial time reduced/all subs reduced                     20,384
  • Negotiated reductions                                       87,000
  • Retirement Incentive (need 5 participants)                  50,000
  • Capital Reserve Fund (postpone 1-2 years)                   50,000
  • Miscellaneous Adult Education reductions                      4,533
  • Expenditures outside of the General Fund
  • Adult Education                                 $228,152
A chart was shared showing State Subsidy vs. Annual Budgets.





The impact on the Towns with a budget decrease of 1.46% are as follows:

  • Bridgton   - Increase of $115,878 or 1.53%
  • Casco       - Increase of $718,033 or 15.25%
  • Naples      - Increase of $431,758 or 7.10%
  • Sebago     - Decrease of $57,774 or -1.84%
Future meetings include the following:

  • April 5, 2010 – Regular Board Meeting – Approve and sign warrants
  • May 18, 2010 – Annual Budget Meeting to set budget amounts
  • May 25, 2010 – Budget Validation Vote to approve amounts set at the May 18 meeting.
Comments and Questions:

Dave Morton, Casco Town Manager asked how the District will apply the additional $141,497 received from the state?   Will it be used to reduce the burden on the taxpayers?

Superintendent Phillips responded that the Leadership Team had begun discussions regarding the additional funds.  Also, the information was shared with the Finance Committee last week.  There are still some unknowns in the general fund, including the following:  

  • Medicaid reimbursements may not be available in 2010-11.  Tthe District has received up to $500,000 a year for this.   
  • The balance forward has a balance of $100,000 for the coming year.
  • The District has two bargaining groups that are still in negotiations.
  • Next year is going to be more difficult for budgeting as we will be receiving less subsidy and the bond payments for the new educational services building and the renovations at the high school and vocational center will begin.
The unknowns may exceed the savings from these two areas.  The Board will need to decide what should we do and when.


The Finance Committee recommended being cautious with this money for the moment and see if any of the unknowns are resolved in the next few weeks.

Alan Crabtree commended the Finance Committee for presenting a budget that is less than last year.
He urged the Board to practice fiscal moderation.   With the revenue projections being bleak, with 3 out of 4 towns being at minimum receiver status, no more stimulus money through ARRA, the unknown with regard to Medicaid, the cost of bonding for the capital improvements, and Casco having a high assessment this year, he recommended that when finalizing the budget the District use the additional revenues to reduce the current budget.   

A suggestion was made that the funds could be used to restore some of the cuts that have been made and the remaining money could be used to help lower the assessments to taxpayers.  




Dave Morton asked that with the current unknowns, if there would be another opportunity for the public to make public comments on the budget at a future date.   Superintendent Phillips responded that the Board will need to have another meeting between now and April 5 to vote on the budget.  A Special Board meeting will be scheduled.  The public will have an opportunity for public comment at that meeting.    

Douglas Maker is a teacher at Lake Region Middle School and has three children in the District.   On behalf of the teachers at Lake Region Middle School, he read a letter, on behalf of the middle school staff, in support of the Librarian position at the middle school.   A big part of the Librarian’s position is to help with the use of media.  It is a tool that is used by all the teachers and the librarian supports the teachers who are doing projects.  The Student News is broadcast daily from the Library and the Librarian is a key person in helping the students.  Teachers are also concerned in how the change will affect the language arts classes.  

Mr. Maker was thanked for the information.

Nancy Hayes, an 8th grade Social Studies Teacher at Lake Region Middle School, graduate of Lake Region High School and a taxpayer, shared information on how the media specialist position is helpful in the classroom.   The Library Media Specialist is catching the students on fire to read.  Students are given an opportunity to go to the library and take out a book to read.  It is astounding at the number of students who are reading books, even reluctant learners are reading.   
 
In the curriculum area, the Librarian does extensive work on curriculum.  She teaches research skills to the students, including note taking, setting up a bibliography, and keeping source logs.  This would be difficult for the classroom teachers to take on.  Also, with the computers, students are doing more and more research all the time.  The Librarian is very helpful in finding materials that are in safe sources.  She also supports the teachers by bringing books to the room if they are doing a particular project.  Losing this position would be a huge loss.    
 
A parent supported keeping the Library Media Specialist position at the middle school.  Her child was a reluctant reader and by the time she got into 8th grade she was able to find books in every genre and could pass every level of reading.   Students need help finding books at their reading level and their interests.  The Board was asked to reinstate that position and keep it a teaching position.

Gregg Smith from Sebago commented that there needs to be accountability.  The reading level at the middle school is not meeting the State’s level.   If students are reading, why aren’t the improvements showing up on test scores?  

There was a suggestion that an evaluation of all programs be done to see what is effective and to eliminate what isn’t working.  The high school is in need of fixing.  Are there any direct plans to fix the problems?

Superintendent Phillips responded that the schools are continuing to find out what works in the schools and get better.  
  • Several years ago, math test scores showed that the instruction was not yielding the results we wanted to see.   A multi-year search was done for a standards-based program.  A great deal of time and money were invested into a new program and scores are improving.   This year the elementary schools are piloting a standards-based literacy program.  A recommendation on whether or not to purchase a program will be made by the end of the year.
  • The District has engaged in a long-term effort for response to intervention.  This is a research-based program designed to be sure that no kids fall through the cracks.
  • There is going to be a hard look at the high school to find strategies to improve student learning.
 
Dave Morton acknowledged that education is the largest public service that our communities provide.  
In considering what to do with the additional $322,000, keep in mind the taxpayers, they are all in trouble with the increase in value and the decrease in income.  

Glen Niemy, a parent, expressed his concern that now is not the time to be reducing the budget.  Students need a good education to compete with other kids from other schools.  We need good schools to increase the desirability of industries and people to move into the area.

The Public Hearing adjourned at 6:51 p.m.  

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                                                                                      Secretary

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                                                                                        Date Approved