Mascoma budget plan cuts teachers to hold spending

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/30/2020 8:53:33 PM
Modified: 11/30/2020 8:53:29 PM

WEST CANAAN — Officials in the Mascoma Valley Regional School District may present voters with a nearly level-funded budget for the coming school year after eliminating three teaching positions.

The Enfield Village, Canaan Elementary and the Indian River schools would each lose an instructor through attrition under a $29.5 million spending plan put forward by SAU 62 Superintendent Amanda Isabelle.

The budget proposal is an almost 1%, or $287,800, increase over current spending approved by the voters in March.

“As teachers retire, we won’t replace them,” Mascoma Business Administrator Debra Ford said Monday, adding that declining enrollment is partially to blame for the staff reduction.

The Mascoma district educates students from Enfield, Canaan, Grafton, Dorchester and Orange. It’s seen its average daily enrollment decrease by about 46 students — down to 1,082 — since the start of the 2015-2016 school year, according to state enrollment figures.

Fewer students mean fewer teachers are needed, Ford said.

The teaching cuts also would allow the district to offset increases in fixed costs, such as a $352,400 jump in pension contributions and an additional $372,800 in contracted salaries and benefits.

Ford said the district also might draw on reserve accounts set aside for special education and Mascoma’s buildings to keep expenses low.

“Without those, we wouldn’t be able to have a budget this tight, certainly,” she said.

Ford said it’s too early to tell how the budget might affect tax rates in the district, which are calculated based on enrollment.

“The goal was to not raise anybody’s taxes and to level fund the budget,” she said.

School Board Vice Chairman Timothy Josephson said that offering a small budget increase was important this year as many families are struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The superintendent’s proposal takes into account the needs of both students and taxpayers, he said in a phone interview Monday.

“It’s going to be tight, it’s going to be tough but I think they did a good job,” Josephson said of the SAU staff.

Josephson also commended the proposed budget for staying under the default budget, which would take effect if the spending plan fails at the polls.

The default budget is about $29.7 million, more than the superintendent’s proposal.

It would amount to a 1.7% increase over the current year’s budget.

The Budget Committee and School Board are expected to take a final vote on the spending plan when they meet jointly on Monday, Dec. 7.

If it’s approved, the budget would then go before voters during a Saturday, Feb. 6 deliberative session.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.




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