Preliminary state education figures for fiscal year 2017 indicate subsidies could be shifted even further onto local communities.
Earlier this month, education officials across Maine received their first version of this year of the State Calculation for Funding Public Education PK-12 Report. The report is preliminary, and adjustments will be made as the legislative session progresses; typically, however, that report gives a reasonably target for schools to work with as board develop their budget for the next school year.
The subsidies are determined by a formula that uses state valuations of communities and the number of students in schools. In the case of RSU 34, the figures that come from those calculations would show a significant loss in aid.
In an email sent out last week, RSU 34 Superintendent David Walker said the combined state valuations of district communities this year is about $637.3 million, or less than 1 percent, which is and slightly less than the statewide loss in valuation; at the same time, RSU 34 now has 1,251 students (a number based on a three year rolling average) – 45 fewer than last year, which is a 3 percent drop, which exceeds the statewide average as well.
Combine those two factors, and the initially proposed subsidy, which unless revised by lawmakers would include no additional funding from the previous year despite ever-increasing fixed costs for schools, would mean that RSU 34 would receive an allocation in FY17 of about $500,000 less than this year.
“This certainly will challenge us once again to find ways to maintain our programs within the constraints of state and local budgets,” said Walker.
RSU 26, meanwhile, would get a little more money – about $22,000 – from the state. That number, however, is deceiving; after the district’s FY16 budget was approved, the
the Legislature voted to increase RSU 26’s state subsidy share by approximately $99,000. Prior to that, at the annual budget meeting in May the Orono community voted that if there was an increase in subsidy from the state the local share would be reduced by that amount.
“This year’s proposed subsidy is higher than what we budgeted last year, but lower than what we actually received,” said Harriman.
For other local school departments, Milford would receive about $150,000 less and Greenbush would get $76,000 less; Milford Superintendent Tim Babcok said that would leave the town in a tough situation.
“It will be difficult to develop a budget with those number. We were in a situation where we were already tight, and the only thing we can cut now is personnel,” said Babcock. “We’re going to be looking at some tough choices over the nexr couple years.
The Indian Island School would see an increase, getting $56,000 more if the proposed subsidies pass as offered.