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02/11/2016

Superintendent's school budget presentation postponed to March 1

The superintendent's school budget recommendations for fiscal 2017, scheduled to be presented to the School Board on Feb. 23, 2016, will instead be presented on March 1.

The School Board on Feb. 8 agreed to the postponement, at the suggestion of Superintendent Meredith Nadeau, in light of a projected $1 million reduction in state subsidy.

Officials learned of the reduction a little over a week ago, Nadeau said. "Because we are on vacation next week, the opportunity for input and some decision making around how we best handle that shortfall ... is tight," she told board members at their meeting Feb. 8.

The board was also scheduled to receive and begin review of the Community Services budget Feb 23. However, because oversight of Community Services is scheduled to move from the School Department to the municipal government beginning July 1, the Town Council's finance committee will instead be responsible for reviewing the Community Services budget this spring.

"Given the recent challenges that we learned of with our budget, and that we aren't dealing with Community Services' budget, I would ask the board consider whether or not it might be willing to delay the start of our budget process to March 1," Nadeau said.

Contracted salary and benefit increases are expected to add 4 percent to next year's budget, Nadeau said. That, coupled with the $1 million reduction in state aid, will mean an increase of slightly more than 8 percent "out of the gate", she said. "In the interest of thoughtful decision making around what may be some difficult issues to wrestle with, if the board is willing to give more time, we would certainly welcome that."

In late January the Department of Education's preliminary spreadsheet for fiscal 2016-17 projected a state subsidy for Cape Elizabeth of $2.43 million, down 29 percent from this year's allocation. Statewide the reduction is due to rising costs of education and decline in state valuation, Nadeau said. Property values have increased locally however, leaving Cape Elizabeth to pick up more of the share, as determined by the state's funding formula. Enrollment and enrollment in special-education services have also declined in Cape Elizabeth. "Those pieces all factor in to the funding that we receive from the state," Nadeau said.

This year's enrollment of 1,629 students is expected to decline by 25 next year, she said.

The March 1 workshop is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the High School.