The St. George Municipal School Unit (MSU) is a community school committed to the success of every student. The district is thriving in its second year as an independent school district. We have almost 200 students in grades K-8 and approximately 90 St. George resident-students attend local area high schools (44 at Oceanside High School, 25 at Camden Hills Regional High School, 6 at Medomak Valley, 8 at Lincoln Academy, and 1 at Watershed).
We are proposing a budget totaling $5,304,839 for the 2017-18 school year, which is about $186,000 (or 3.64%) more than the current 2016-17 budget. The proposed budget builds on the success of our first two years by focusing resources towards three main areas: (1) partnerships with community organizations that enrich student learning, help students give back to the community, and transform the peninsula into a “campus” for our students; (2) innovative and individualized education programs—such as the Makerspace Initiative, special education, and Expeditionary Learning—that engage all learners; and (3) programs that meet students’ basic needs related to physical and mental health, social-emotional wellbeing, and food security.
We are asking the Town to raise $4,961,005 in local taxes, which is a 4.2% increase (about $200,000) over the amount raised locally last year. This assessment increase is driven largely by:
- Costs associated with the RSU 13 Withdrawal Agreement.
- Tuition: The Withdrawal Agreement requires St. George to pay 110% of the per pupil high school tuition cost, rather than what would be the lower, state average tuition rate. Next year we project the state average tuition for Medomak Valley to be about $9,000, Camden Hills Regional High School about $12,100, and for Lincoln Academy approximately $11,700. However, we estimate that the cost for a St. George student to attend Oceanside High School will be about $14,600, which is $5,000 more per student than Medomak, about $2,500 more per student than Camden, and almost $3000 more per student than Lincoln Academy. If RSU 13 charged us a tuition rate similar to what we pay Camden, we would save more than $129,000 in the proposed FY18 budget. For this reason, the School Board canceled our tuition contract with RSU 13. That cancellation takes effect after the 2017-18 school year and the Board remains committed to negotiating a new tuition contract with RSU 13 that has terms similar to those in our agreements with other districts.
- Debt Payments on RSU 13 Buildings: George is responsible for a portion of the debt associated with the Cushing Community School and the Rockland Middle School. For these two schools, we will make a total debt payment of almost $93,000 next year. Our last payment for Rockland Middle School will be in 2018 and for Cushing Community School in 2021.
- Total Effect on Budget: Costs associated with the Withdrawal Agreement will total about $222,000 next year, which represents almost 4.2% of the entire FY18 Budget. If not for these Withdrawal Agreement costs, there would be no increase in the proposed FY18 budget. Looking only at the tuition costs, if we paid RSU 13 a rate similar to the other high schools our students attend, rather than a premium, the assessment increase would be only 1.5%.
- Increase in special and regular education costs.
- New Special Education/Title I Interventionist who will work directly with students in grades K-3 who qualify for special education and Title I services. An emphasis on early intervention will meet individual students’ needs at the most critical point in their educational career.
- New Science Technology Engineering Arts Math Educator who will work directly with students and staff to support (1) the Makerspace Initiative, (2) Expeditionary Learning Expeditions, which are six-week-long, interdisciplinary projects where students identify and address real world issues and share that learning with the community, and (3) the development of the Gifted and Talented Program.
- More resources for teacher instructional supplies, equipment, software, and services. This includes, among other things, books for the classroom, intervention programs for struggling readers, science supplies, and online math programs students can use at and outside of school.
- High RSU 13 High School Tuition Costs: See discussion above.
- Resources to account for a new teacher contract. We are negotiating a new contract that covers 22 teachers.
The proposed budget responsibly allocates resources to move our school forward. There is a great deal of chatter (again) in Augusta about school consolidation and the fiscal sustainability of small schools. Below are some facts that provide another perspective and demonstrate the viability and vibrancy of our independent, community school:
- On average, Maine school districts allocate about 41% of their budgets to regular instruction. More than 52% of St. George MSU’s FY18 budget goes to support regular education instructional costs.
- On average, Maine school districts spend about 16% of their budgets to support special education. Special education costs account for less than 15% of St. George MSU’s FY18 budget.
- On average, Maine school districts spend about 8.4% of their budgets on system and school administration costs. In the proposed FY18 budget, St. George MSU will spend about 7.8% on administration.
Thank you all for your strong support of our school and all 290 of our K-12 students. Please continue that support by voting for the proposed FY18 school budget at the District Budget Meeting (Wednesday, May 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the School) and the Budget Referendum (June 13 at the Town Office). If you have any questions or concerns about the budget or budget process, please call (207.372.6312) or email Superintendent/Special Education Director Mike Felton (email@example.com) or Business Manager Scott Vaitones (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Superintendent/ Special Education Director
St. George MSU