Ensuring Excellence: Designing Our Schools For The Future
January 2, 2013
Dear RSU 23 Parents,
You might have heard by now that the Governor LePage recently announced that State revenues were falling short of projections for this fiscal year, which would require a reduction, or curtailment, in spending by departments of government, including the Department of Education. Since the vast majority of DOE’s budget is made up of subsidy to local school districts, we have been anxiously awaiting the specifics. Last week, DOE posted a spreadsheet on its website showing what each district in Maine would see in reduced subsidy payments for the remainder of this school year, which ends on June 30, 2013. According to the list, RSU 23 will have its subsidy reduced by $312,000.
Curtailments in State subsidy have also occurred as recently as 2008 and 2009, in the depths of the recession, and by comparison, this year’s reduction is smaller. However, other local circumstances will make this year’s reduction more difficult to address. First, our current budget has very little “wiggle room” due to the series of cuts we made to our expenditure budget from May through November, through three budget validation referendums. Second, in the first few months of the fiscal year, from July to October, we began to see trends in both expenditures and revenues that were concerning, including legal costs associated with the two withdrawal efforts underway in Saco and Dayton, higher special education costs, and reduced Medicaid payments. As a result, we instituted a “budget freeze” in late November to increase our chances of ending the year with a balanced budget. Clearly, the recent news of another $312,000 in reduced State subsidy has made our situation even more difficult.
The budget freeze would have resulted in relatively minor reductions in school and district budgets, but it is likely that cuts to address the $312,000 curtailment will be more noticeable. We have yet to finalize a plan to respond to the curtailment, and it is our hope that staff layoffs will not be necessary. In the coming few weeks, the School Board, administration, and I will be reviewing the most recent monthly expenditure reports to determine more precisely our costs to date in such areas as staff salaries and benefits, energy, and legal fees. That will help us forecast with greater accuracy what budget reductions we need to make in the remaining months of the fiscal year. Once we have developed a plan, we will share it with parents and community.
One area of spending that we will not reduce is bringing all of our school buildings up to a consistent level of security, which means locked entrances with video cameras and buzzers. I know that parents have been extremely worried about our local school security systems in the wake of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The School Board and I will be scheduling a series of discussion forums later in the month of January, with law enforcement and mental health professionals in attendance, to help us all better understand what can be done to keep our schools and communities safe. I’ll have more news later on that topic and on our budget adjustment efforts.
Patrick R. Phillips
Superintendent of Schools
Rep. Justin Chenette
Press Releases and News Stories about the work being done in the local community and in the state legislature.