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Enrollment, planning goals guide 2016-17 school budget proposal

Superintendent Meredith Nadeau is proposing a $24.5 million budget for 2016-17, up $932,269, or 4 percent over this year's. The proposal would add 68 cents to the tax rate, an increase of 5.7 percent for school services compared to this year.

The budget is marked by a projected $974,379 reduction in state subsidy, leading to an overall decrease in local revenue of more than 10 percent.

"Given the overall financial picture, the administrative team has worked to make reductions to the budget which we believe will not adversely impact students, and has brought forward an increase which we feel will meet student needs and the goals of the strategic and capital plans," Nadeau said in her March 1, 2016 budget message to the School Board.

As it has in recent years, Nadeau's budget proposal supports the goals of the schools' five-year strategic plan adopted in 2013. In her budget message, Nadeau described the proposed budget as "maintenance" funding for some of the goals. Decisions also mirror some of the conditions responsible for Cape's reduction in state funding, namely projected declines in enrollment and in the number of students qualifying for special-education services.

"As enrollment is projected to continue to trend slowly downward during the next few years, the same thoughtful approach utilized to develop the strategic plan and (capital improvement plan) will be needed to maintain the comprehensive offerings for which the district is known," her message says.

Net enrollment is expected to decline by 25 students, or 1.5 percent. Staff changes proposed for next year, through attrition or to meet student need, result in a net loss of 4.1 full-time-equivalent positions. At the High School, which is expected to lose 33 students next year, the budget proposal reduces English teaching staff by .6 full-time-equivalents and math by .4 full-time-equivalents.

Matching budget to strategic plan goals

Under the first strategic-plan goal, to provide a "high-quality, comprehensive instructional program", the 2016-17 budget proposes to reduce one interventionist position at the Middle School by one-half to support a need for an additional half-time teacher in the fifth grade. At the High School, the School Department will pick up the cost of a one-quarter time educational technician to support Freshman Academy, an executive skills course being piloted this year with support from the Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation. The budget also reduces special education staff by one teacher, one ed tech, a half-time speech therapist and half-time occupational therapist, "based on projected students needs and current caseloads in special education," Nadeau said.

For the second strategic-plan goal, to "cultivate an inclusive and supportive school culture", the budget continues to support athletic and other extracurricular activities, including additional support for afterschool robotics and equipment replacement. Also, to meet needs at the elementary school, world-language teaching staff is expanding by .15 full-time equivalents to provide instruction "in a manner that is consistent with national (Foreign Language in Elementary School) recommendations," Nadeau said.

Library instructional technology specialist staffing will increase at the middle- and high-school level to support the third strategic-plan goal to foster "student engagement in learning and teacher engagement instruction". In her budget message, Nadeau said, "Technology is an area where the district and its partners, including parent associations and the Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation, have invested heavily." No iPad replacement is scheduled for next year, but the need to work directly with students and to support teachers has only increased, she said. The budget proposes an additional half-time specialist at the Middle School to work in classrooms and in the library, and a full-time ed tech specialist to work at the High School. The increase in staff would be offset by reducing ed tech positions at both libraries.

The fourth goal, to provide funding and capital resources to support the strategic plan, is addressed through continued investment offset by reductions in debt service. Human resources services, funded by a $23,662 transfer from the town budget, will be provided by existing central-office staff.

While this year's revenue outlook is a disapointment, Nadeau, in her budget message, reminded the School Board of the increase in state aid last year that resulted in a net reduction in property tax for school services. "Given the large fluctuations in revenues over the last three years (-7.5%, +20.7%, -10.7%), it may be more useful to look at the school portion of the property tax increase over a three-year period: a mean increase of 2.6 percent," her budget message says.

For more information, including links to spreadsheets and other supporting documents, please see the School Department's budget page.

School Budget Workshop Schedule: (subject to change). All meetings at 6:30 p.m., High School library and learning commons [directions]

Tuesday, March 1

  • Superintendent's Budget Presentation
  • Staffing & Benefits
  • High School, Middle School, Pond Cove School
  • Technology
  • Special Education

Tuesday, March 15

  • Athletics
  • Capital Improvements
  • Facilities/Transportation
  • Staff and Student support
  • Office of the Superintendent

Tuesday, March 22

  • Contingency
  • Revenue
  • Undesignated fund balance
  • Three-year planning
  • Budget adoption

Thursday, March 24

  • Additional meeting if needed

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