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Public hearing March 9 on proposed K-12 budget

A Public hearing on the governor’s proposed budget for K-12 education, which includes a sizeable increase in the amount local taxpayers have to contribute to public schools, will be held on Monday, March 9.

The hearing, which will be held before a joint meeting of the Appropriations and Education Committees, will begin at 1 p.m., in Room 228 of the Statehouse. Audio of the meeting can be heard at:

School superintendents received notification on Feb. 20 on how the proposed budget will affect individual districts. The major concern with the budget is that it causes the required local mill rate to increase from the current 8.1 to 8.48.

The driver behind that increase is the cost of education in the budget is going up $68 million in 2015-2016, but state aid is increasing only by $20 million.

That also means state share of the cost of education is dropping to 46.25 percent, meaning local share is going up to 53.75 – almost opposite to the voter mandate that said the state should pick up 55 percent.

The cost drivers include:

  •  $38 million increase in so-called operating costs covering teachers and other staff that are driven by student counts and the population served, including the economically disadvantaged.
  •  More than a $10 million increase in special education costs.
  •  A $7.5 million increase in the amount districts have to put in for their working teachers’ retirement in 2015-2016; and $8.8 million in 2016-2017. This is known as “normal costs”.

In addition to those costs, there are increases in some ongoing programs paid for out of the “miscellaneous costs” portion of General Purpose Aid and some new targeted initiatives in what the governor’s office is calling the “Enhancing Student Performance and Opportunity” fund, which also comes out of General Purpose Aid.

Those costs include:

  •  More than $2 million for data and management support of Essential Programs and Services.
  •  More than $1 million in 2015-2016 and $1.8 million in 2016-2017 to allow regionalization of services provided by  the Maine Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
  •  An $800,000 increase for the Maine School of Science and Math in 2015-2016 and $1 million in 2016-2017.
  •  Increasing a one-time allocation of $650,000 for Bridge Year in the current school year to $1 million in each year of the biennium to expand the program.
  •  $1.5 million in both years of the biennium to help struggling schools.
  •  $1.5 million in both years of the biennium to help CTE centers attain national certification by acquiring new equipment and having more training for staff.
  •  $2.5 million to help districts implement new teacher and principal evaluation systems.

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