2012-03-22 / News

School committee not happy with budget

By Marc Filippino
Staff Writer

A school budget increase of nearly 7 percent caused some Biddeford School Committee members to demand a reexamination of the proposed budget.

During last week’s meeting, Superintendent Sarah-Jane Poli said $99,030 had already been cut to the budget due to a request made by the finance committee. The cut put the total proposed budget at $33,196,077, with an increase for fiscal year 2012-2013 of 6.88 percent.

“I don’t think that our citizens can support this type of budget and I don’t think we would be doing our job as the school committee sending this to them. We should have been better prepared for this and I apologize that we are not,” said committee member Tony Michaud

The proposed budget would increase by $2.2 million. The highest cost is because of the absence of a federal educational jobs grant of $809,478 and a 10 percent anticipated health insurance increase of $377,754.

Additionally, the proposed budget shows an increase in salaries for the upcoming 2012-2013 school year. Figures for regular instruction indicate a 9.57 percent increase for salaries and nearly $200,000 in new positions with benefits in the teaching, custodial and technology II departments.

The budget passed by a 4-3 margin with Michaud, Bil Moriarty and Mark Gervais in opposition.

School Committee Member James Emerson said the committee would be “arbitrarily be throwing the dart” to find more cuts. He said the city council did not provide guidelines or feedback on the budget, which made finding areas to cut difficult.

“It’s important to understand that half the revenue hasn’t gone away,” Emerson said. “Look at the percentage of uncontrollable loss. I just don’t see how and where you can take significant dollars out.”

“The budget only represents a portion of our needs. I think it’s a good starting point to give to the city council,” said Vice Chairman Tammy Fleurent.

Fleurent went on to list 18 full time positions that were covered under the educational jobs grant that would be cut if the budget did not pass, adding those kinds of losses would be “unacceptable.”

Moriarty said after reviewing the proposed budget he found more than $120,000 in cuts “on one page alone.” He also said that cutting stipends that would go to extracurricular school activities, not jobs, was the solution to eliminating costs.

“I know that saying ‘stipend’ is a bad thing, because we don’t want to cut, but other school districts don’t fund these positions,” Moriarty said. “We need to go back and we need to look.”

Mayor Alan Casavant said the budget was in line with what the committee discussed previously and it is too late to make any serious changes in the plan.

“What we talked about the last several weeks was to come up with a number that would best serve the students of Biddeford. What appears tonight before you is essentially what everyone agreed to,” said Casavant, who also is chairman of the school committee.

The school committee also approved a $628,237 adult education budget and $1,251,423 geared toward nutrition.

“This is a really big number. I’ve talk to parents around town and they all agree that this really big,” Moriarty said in regard to general education budget. “We shouldn’t even be sending this to the city council, they’re going to laugh this back to us.”

The committee will present the budget to the city council at a 7 p.m. meeting tonight.

Return to top