While preliminary state subsidy amounts for K-12 education next year do not indicate any dramatic losses for area schools, as occurred last year, some local towns could lose up to 7% of their total school budget. The subsidy amounts that were released by the Department of Education on February 22, though, could be changed as the legislature works on the state two-year budget during the upcoming months.
AOS 77 Superintendent James Underwood notes that Pembroke, Robbinston and Calais are hit the hardest with subsidy losses, under the preliminary figures. "It will be very difficult in those three communities," he says. Without including the additional local costs that would be incurred by a proposed shift in teacher retirement costs, Robbinston would lose $58,151, or 6.6% of its state and local approved spending; Pembroke would be cut $64,545 or 4.6%; and Calais would lose over $104,000, or 1.9%. Also, Dennysville would lose $50,741 or 12.6% and Charlotte would be cut $27,367 or 4.6%. In AOS 96, Machias would lose $64,612 or 2.1% and East Machias would be cut $74,158 or 3.5%. Moosabec CSD would be cut $110,198 or 12.4%.
While the preliminary funding amount for Eastport "is not a disaster," increasing by $13,049, Underwood adds that the ongoing losses during the past few years have strained that school budget. Last year, Eastport lost $309,000, or 75% of its state funding. From 2008 to 2011, the Eastport school budget dropped from $2.9 million to $2.2 million.
"All of the districts have had it very difficult the last few years and have already pretty much hit bottom," says Underwood. Although two AOS 77 districts, Alexander and Perry, appear to fare well, he notes, "It's going to hurt all of the communities except Alexander and Perry."
Noting that it's too early to consider whether any staff or other cuts will be necessary, the superintendent says he will be speaking with local school boards over the next couple of months about their budget plans.
Concerning statements that public education would be "flat funded" under Governor Paul LePage's proposed two-year state budget, Underwood says, "That's just doublespeak." He notes that the state budget proposal is based on a $27 million cut from this year's general purpose aid for local schools, because of a $14 million shift in state teacher retirement costs from the state onto local school systems, along with a $12.58 million curtailment in state subsidies for this year that the governor ordered. In addition, Underwood fears the possible effect of the governor's proposal to eliminate state revenue sharing for municipalities for two years.
"I just hope, not in desperation, that the governor's elimination of municipal revenue sharing does not go through. That would destroy us all." He says towns would not be able to provide their share of local school funding if they don't receive the state revenue sharing funding. He adds that a bill has been submitted to freeze revenue sharing at current levels. "I hope the legislators hear that we must not be hurt any more."
The subsidy amounts do not include an additional $9 million in the proposed biennial budget targeted to supporting activities such as implementation of the proficiency‑based diploma and adult education college readiness programs. Nearly all of those funds would be distributed to school districts.
Gains and losses by town
Preliminary subsidy gains and losses for area municipalities are as follows: Alexander, $38,490 gain to $155,191; Baileyville, $21,096 gain to $463,333; Beals, $4,900 loss to $32,047; Calais, $104,364 loss to $4,130,258; Charlotte, 27,367 loss to $279,604; Cooper, $1,897 gain to $4,827; Crawford, $28,705 loss to $16,780; Cutler, $6,384 gain to $171,132; East Machias, $74,158 loss to $1,292,031; Eastport, $13,049 gain to $107,317; Grand Lake Stream, $794 gain to $2,290; Jonesboro, $2,016 gain to $162,524; Jonesport, $60,880 gain to $98,125; Machias, $64,612 loss to $1,681,398; Machiasport, $18,816 loss to $87,173; Marshfield, $9,764 loss to $255,871; Meddybemps, $1,078 loss to $1,257; Northfield, $1,440 gain to $4,678; Pembroke, $64,545 loss to $584,714; Perry, $20,051 gain to $451,501; Princeton, $26,456 loss to $631,469; Robbinston, $58,151 loss to $254,733; Whiting, $7,832 loss to $29,824; Baring, $16,432 loss to $206,253; MSAD 19, Lubec, $4,284 loss to $148,407; Indian Township, $165,269 gain to $2,018,331; Pleasant Point, $169,072 gain to $1,739,537; Moosabec CSD, $110,198 loss to $179,649.