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Voters Approve MSAD #20 Budget


By:  David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, June 6, 2018


   Voters approved MSAD #20's $6.193 million  budget at a public vote at the FFMHS cafeteria on May 23.

   The first budget that I went through was about $6.3 million.  It was about $220,000 over last year's budget,” said MSAD #20 Superintendent, Tim Doak.  “It would have been an increase of 3.6 percent but we brought that down to a one percent increase by cuts that we made.  It would have had a little bigger effect on the mill rate, but with a one percent we should see this is where we started.”

   While the school's budget did increase slightly this year over last, the amount of money Fort Fairfield taxpayers will be paying through their local property taxes decreased by around $137,000.  This is due to increases in money being received from the State by changes in property valuation and student enrollment.

  The State slightly reduced the property valuation of Fort Fairfield this year, which allowed for more State subsidy money to come into the community.  The student enrollment also increased by three students over last year's count.  “When you gain students and lose property value, you win-win because that's how they fund you, they fund you by valuation and they fund you by the number of students.”

   Doak explained MSAD #20 is now a seventy-two percent receiver from the State.  “From last year, we gained in this community, $202,000.  That really helped us.  This would be the year if we're going to add anything to the programs, help the taxpayer, this would be the year.  I'm not sure what we're going to be faced with next year with funding, changing governor, changing people on the education committee, changing appropriations so you could a different story than we're seeing here, today.”

   There is currently $100,000 in a reserve account left over from money that was set aside years ago to fix the elementary school roof.  The roof has been repaired and that money is now available for any capital improvements the voters may wish to allow the school to undertake.  Some of the immediate issues are the steel doors on the High School building's North entrance, paving, asbestos removal and replacing lockers - the school still has the original lockers from when it was built in the early 1960s.  The High School also needs to consider upgrading to solid wood doors and a new intercom system.  Doak says next year, some of those improvements may be addressed, but the voters would have to approve those articles during the school's budget vote.

   MSAD #20 has two new buses this year, which are being acquired through a lease-to-own program.  “We received a bus this year and we're getting a bus after July 1.  Our bus fleet, through no fault of anybody's, is in bad shape.  We put a lot of miles on the buses, we had one taken off the road in August of last year.  We managed to call downstate on the bus issue and we got a bus.  We put in a bus for next year and got rewarded a bus.  Our buses have at least 230,000 miles on most of them.  A bus today, if it's handicap accesible, is about $90,000, if it's not handicap accessible it's about $87,000 - $88,000.  If you go into the state program they pay you  back about 82 percent of that.  So on a $90,000 bus we're probably going to get back about $78,000 - $80,000.

   A question was raised about the cost of running a full size bus for one or two students to attend the vocational programs in Presque Isle and Caribou.  The state mandates that schools make those programs available to students and Doak says bussing them in standard school busses is the safest mode of transportation on the road.  He had looked at smaller, mini school busses, but found the cost savings was not that significant, perhaps around $10,000 or so less than a full size bus with essentially the same gas mileage and maintenance expenses since the engine and chassis are exactly the same, only shorter.

   The per-pupil cost to educate students in Fort Fairfield is $9,622.39 - which is $1,346.14 less than the statewide average.  MSAD #20 spends less per pupil to educate than 215 of Maine's 245 districts/schools.

The amount of money the town of Fort Fairfield will be contributed to the school's $6.193 million budget this coming school year is $1.493 million.