2017-03-02 / Letters

Speak up about Saco school budget

To the editor:

“The budget is not just a collection of numbers, but an expression of our values and aspirations.” – Jacob Lew

The Saco School Department prepared a flat budget this year. Items the school department has no control over are: increasing health insurance rates, tuition increase to Thornton Academy, increase of students coming into the community to go to Thornton Academy; and salaries and other benefits for kindergarten through grade eight staff. Some are fixed costs. Others are based on outside influences.

The Saco School Board made cuts to the proposed fiscal year 2018 budget. The cuts are based on information from the Maine Department of Education’s EDU 279 subsidy information. Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed budget has 48 changes to the subsidy formula. The Essential Programs and Services formula is complicated and impacts many different aspects of school budget funding. The amount lost in state subsidy to Saco is $280,000.

Saco’s School Board and Finance Committee tasked Superintendent Dominic DePatsy to return with cuts that totaled $1.2 million and that increased revenue $400,000. The superintendent approached the process at three levels: furthest impact, medium impact and direct impact to students. The school’s leadership team (principals, department heads, finance director and superintendent), Saco Teacher Union and school board members submitted suggestions for additional cuts to the budget.

After two hours in an executive session on Feb. 22, decisions were made on which items to cut which had the least impact to our children. Saco Citizens for Sensible Government has placed the superintendent’s weekly update on our Facebook page for review of the various cuts approved during the school board’s executive session.

If additional cuts are required, either as a result of the governor’s budget or the city council, these cuts will directly impact the ability to educate our children and the community as a whole.

What can you do?

 Write your state senator and representative. Let them know the proposed suggestion by the governor regarding the education budget has a direct impact on the education of our children in Saco.

Sen. Justin Chenette: StateHouse office number: 287-1515; business cell: 590-3266; email: justinchenette@gmail.com; or contact form: http://www.justinchenette.com/contact.html.

Rep. Donna Bailey: StateHouse message phone: (800) 423-2900; home: 284-9962; email: Donna.Bailey@ legislature.maine.gov.

 Review the budget information on the school department’s website.

 Email questions or concerns regarding budget decisions to Superintendent Dom DePatsy or Business Manager Jason DiDonato.

 Attend the school board meeting on March 8. You will have an opportunity to speak about the budget. Please limit your comments to 3 minutes. Send comments in advance to the school board and city council. Though the city council votes only on the full school budget, it is important for council and administration to understand your concerns as citizens, taxpayers, individuals educating our children, etc.

Take action. Remember, a call, letter, public comment or an email from one individual could make a difference in how our state representatives or senators votes on the governor’s proposed budget. This same action applies at the local level as well. Let school board members and city councilors know what you have to say. In the end, it is the impact to our children that is most important.

Please contact Saco Citizens for Sensible Government with any questions: sacocitizenssensiblegovernment@gmail.com.

John Harkins, chairman Saco Citizens for Sensible Government

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