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Staffing, some sports cut in Gorham schools


February 02, 2011
GORHAM — The Gorham Randolph Shelburne Cooperative's school budget will see an increase of less than half a percent if accepted by the voters in March. Highlighted by staffing cuts and a warrant article that proposes a three-year extension to the teacher contracts, the budget is up only slightly despite cost increases and reduced revenue.

The GRS Cooperative School Board presented their budget proposal totaling $8.49 million for 2011-12 to the voters at the annual public hearing on Jan. 26. The proposal represents an overall increase of $39,078 from the 2010-11 budget of $8.45 million.

GRS Cooperative Superintendent Paul Bousquet said that the big challenge in preparing this budget was to find a way to overcome an anticipated loss in state funding of more than $500,000 across the three member towns and increases in the costs of health insurance and retirement contributions. The cost increases along with likely funding decrease left the district with close to $1 million to make up in other places in order to keep the budget manageable.

According to numbers prepared by the district, the pared down budget, which started at over $9 million and would have raised taxes by an estimated $2.61 (per thousand) in Gorham, $.66 in Randolph and $.29 in Shelburne, was reduced in part by cutting 10 professional and para-professional staff positions. Also cut were the high school varsity golf and cross-country ski programs, $3,700 worth of field trips, and a part-time custodian who will make a lateral move into the transportation department as a bus driver.

According to the power point presented to the public last week, the budget as proposed will likely cause an $.84 increase (per thousand dollars of assessed valuation) of the Gorham tax rate over last year. Randolph will likely see a rise of $.07 and Shelburne could see a decrease of $.42. If the negotiated teacher and support staff contracts are accepted those rates could be decreased further to a $.79 increase in Gorham, $.06 increase in Randolph and a $.44 drop in Shelburne.

Among the staffing cuts are five para-professionals throughout the district, as well as high school special education, English, and business/IT teachers. The middle school industrial arts program was also cut, eliminating one position. A remedial reading teacher at Ed Fenn Elementary will also be lost due to the loss of the federal Title I funding that was offsetting the salary for that position. Department head positions were also done away with, as well as the additional funds that went with them.

Bousquet said that in anticipation of the lost revenue the district faces, a "soft freeze" was initiated on spending before Christmas, that is allowing the SAU to carefully watch its expenditures. He said that with this careful approach the schools hope to have at least $200,000 left over to offset the tax rate for the 2011 budget.

On the warrant is a proposed one-year support staff contract. That contract includes salary and benefits totaling $15,698. Year-round employees would receive either step raises or two percent increases for those off-step. School-year employees would receive no raise if they opt in to the health insurance. Those who do not enroll in health insurance would receive a $200 raise. The employer contribution to health insurance is also increased three percent under the negotiated agreement, from 69 percent to 72 percent of the cost.

A negotiated agreement for the teaching staff is also on the warrant and includes a three-year contract extension at a savings of $33,316 for 2011, but increases of $74,503 in 2012, $46,058 in 2013, and $92,634 in 2014. The teachers are in the second year of their current two-year contract. This year's proposal includes no increase of step or scale, one teaching position reinstated and a reduction in the teacher expendable trust fund from $10,500 to $2,500.

The extension includes an average raise of 3.65 percent in 2012 plus benefits increases. The following years include average raises of 3.54 percent and 4.5 percent respectively, as well as benefit increases.

The budget and related warrant articles will go before the GRS Cooperative District voters at the annual meeting on Thursday, March 3, in the Gorham Middle High School gymnasium at 7 p.m.

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