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Superintendent's Budget Message

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03/08/04

Superintendent's budget proposal provides for High School Achievement Center

Cape Elizabeth's school superintendent is recommending a $17.6 million school budget for 2005-2006, just over 6 percent higher than this year's budget of $16.6 million

The budget essentially meets the 3.3 percent spending cap the Town Council approved for the next budget year. That cap, however, excludes voter-approved debt, which accounts for $400,000, or 2.42 percent of the proposed school-budget increase.

The remainder of the increase being recommended by Interim Superintendent Robert Lyman includes a $58,500 expenditure to continue the High School laptop computer initiative, currently in place for ninth-graders, into the 10th grade. That is the amount earmarked for technology in the state's Essential Programs and Services funding formula.

In his budget message to the School Board, presented at an all-day workshop March 5, Lyman said the budget cap made putting next year's budget proposal more difficult. "It was only with the close scrutiny and support of the principals and other cost center directors, that we were able to identify and shift approximately $200,000 worth of reasonably successful programs into the 'lower priority' category to make room for some newer programs we believe to be essential for students’ future success," the message says.

The budget includes funding for an Achievement Center at the High School, $140,000, designed to help educators meet the needs of all learners as stipulated by the Maine Learning Results and No Child Left Behind Legislation.

It also includes $9,000 membership in the Casco Bay Education Alliance, a group to share best practices with the other member districts including Falmouth, Yarmouth, Cumberland-North Yarmouth, Pownal, and Freeport.

And, it picks up the $50,000 grant provided by the Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation last year to implement a laptop computer intitiatve for ninth-graders in the High School.

To fund these priorities, Lyman said cuts were made in existing programs, including funding for a Middle School special-education teacher and a Pond Cove educational technician; and funding for summer tutoring programs previously budgeted to help meet standards set by No Child Left Behind. "Those are the kind of tradeoffs that had to be made to get the budget lower," Lyman said in a telephone interview.

Classroom furniture replacement was also reduced to one classroom for each of Cape Elizabeth's three schools.

Monetary support for athletic programs and the Middle School outdoor experience was also reduced. As a result, the athletic participation fee implemented last year will rise from $120 to $125 at the High School, and from $40 to $42 at the Middle School; and the parent contribution for Middle School outdoor experience is expected to rise from $80 to $100 per student.

The budget expects Cape Elizabeth's share of state aid to be $2,170,167, up $338,733, or 18.5 percent, next year, by Lyman said that number could change.

A Town Council resolution made in September 2005 pledged that 100 percent of state revenues resulting from passage of Question 1A, a state referendum to require state funding of 55 percent of education costs passed last June, be used for property tax relief.

Lyman is recommending that the council allow $58,500 of that money, earmarked for technology in the EPS funding, be excluded from the budget cap to be used for a laptop computer program for 10th graders.

The tax impact of the budget proposal, without the $58,500 for laptops, would be an added 38 cents to the present rate of $11.62 for education. (Overall municipal tax rate for school, town, county and Community Services is $15.34). Without the voter-approved debt, the school budget increase of 3.3 percent would add 7 cents to the tax rate.

The School Board is expected to further discuss the budget proposal at their finance committee meeting March 8. That meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. Lyman said the board may schedule another budget workshop before their March 22 meeting, when they are expected to finalize the budget to be presented to the Town Council.

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