News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, November 29, 2018 and The Weekly Packet, November 29, 2018
Union 76 discusses state funding, 2019-20 proposed budget

by Anne Berleant

Joining the Raise the Floor coalition for increased state funding for minimum receiver schools and the 2019-20 budget commanded the attention of Union 76 board members November 15.

Fayette Town Manager Mark Robinson, who is heading the coalition, discussed legislation being drafted that would require the state to fund 15 percent of a district’s budget, as calculated by the department of education for essential programs and services (EPS). That number is less than the budgets regularly approved for Union 76 and most small schools.

Brooklin received 7 percent of its EPS amount this year, Sedgwick 8 percent and Deer Isle-Stonington 16 percent.

School districts are considered minimum receivers because of high property values, Brooklin School Board Chairman Paige Morse pointed out, and the $22 million the Department of Education estimates is needed to fund the initiative would have to come from somewhere.

“As soon as the state gives more money, income tax will go up,” Morse said, instead of local property taxes, used to fund schools. “Either way, my taxes will go up.”

Marti Brill (Sedgwick) noted that some of the 116 minimum receiver schools are wealthy districts in southern Maine, who would receive more state funding under the initiative, called “Raise the Floor.”

Robinson’s presentation came with a request to consider joining the coalition and/or helping with legal costs. A draft bill is being reviewed before being presented to the legislature in 2019.

A proposed $575,943 central office budget for 2019-20 was presented by Superintendent Chris Elkington, up 0.3 percent or $2,130. Staff raises of 2.5 percent, a superintendent salary increase of 2 percent, a $500 increase to Elkington’s annuity, which he receives in lieu of health insurance, and projected health and dental insurance costs account for the increase.

The Union 76 budget has increased an average of 3.26 percent each year since 2010-11, or $139,000.

If approved, cost sharing would see Brooklin at 15.23 percent or $87,716 of the budget, Sedgwick at 23.87 percent or $137,477 and CSD 13 at 60.9 percent or $350,749. The three schools determine the cost sharing percentage based on the number of students in each town (25 percent), special education enrollment (25 percent), and number of personnel (50 percent).

The board will vote to approve the budget at its December meeting.