2017-06-08 / Letters

Residents to vote on education budget

To the editor:

Every year during the spring an approved school committee budget is presented to the Biddeford City Council for its action to finalize the Biddeford School Department’s budget. Again, this year, residents of Biddeford will be provided an opportunity to vote on the school budget on June 13. This vote will only be on the school’s portion of the budget and not the municipality’s portion.

As any Biddeford residents who follows the school’s budget process knows, the development of the school budget begins long before the city council vote. The six schools and various other departments deliberate and submit their budgets to the superintendent of schools before going on school vacation in December. Once the budget is compiled, the superintendent and business manager review every line in the budget with the appropriate supervisor for accuracy and relevance, assuring that each request is necessary, appropriate and matches the direction/vision of the school department. This year the budget will allow the school department to create a new pre-kindergarten program to serve approximately 100, 4-year-olds in the city of Biddeford. The program will allow our youngest students to get a jumpstart on their education and prepare them to enter kindergarten with a solid foundation in literacy, number sense and improved social skills. In addition to the pre-kindergarten program, the school department will add an additional educational technician for our English Language Learners program, redesign our alternative pathways program and move into a new location, adopting a new kindergarten through grade five math program, increase our plumbing program to full time by adding courses in heating and ventilation, and create a position to work with families and businesses to place students in high school and adult education into career internships. All of the educational advancement can be accomplished with zero increase (slight decrease) to property owners through a combined kindergarten through grade 12 and Adult Education budget.

This year, in preparation for the budget, it was made clear to the administration that we must scrutinize each and every request.We have used expanded state subsidies, partnerships with other communities and grants to provide more offerings to the community of Biddeford. While the district did receive increased state subsidies we still needed to cover rising costs for salaries, insurances, utilities, transportation costs and other student programs. Our goal has always been to have a balanced budget that is conservative in nature while expanding programs for students. As the superintendent of schools, I am always mindful of my responsibility to present a frugal budget to residents, while meeting the academic and social needs of the students in an ever changing world. I take this financial stewardship very seriously. I pride myself in having the necessary skills and vision to look beyond the immediate present and see trends that may occur in the next several years. During the past four years the education budget (combined kindergarten through grade 12 and Adult Education) in Biddeford has had the following impact on taxpayers:

Fiscal year 2015: .53 percent

Fiscal year 2016: 2.63 percent

Fiscal year 2017: Zero percent

Fiscal year 2018: .03 percent

Throughout this budget process the school department has been extremely transparent about the items that are included in our budget and the actions that were taken to develop the budget to the current figure. We have posted all reductions and the detailed budget on the school department website for full transparency. The school department Finance Committee reviewed each and every line of the budget for additional scrutiny.

Please take some time to learn as much as you can about the 2017-2018 school department budget and the budget validation referendum. Our schools still have much growth to accomplish academically and socially and we will continue to move forward to prepare our students with skills that they need for future education and careers. I am happy to answer any questions that you may have about the process or items in the budget. The budget validation vote on June 13, is your opportunity to have input on the Biddeford School Department budget.

Jeremy Ray, superintendent of schools Biddeford

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