- Maintaining and improving the high quality of education for every student;
- Careful examination of line items and consideration of the success and effectiveness of the expenditures in order to provide a fiscally responsible budget;
- Clear and continual communication throughout the budget process.
March 19, 2019
The Cape Elizabeth School Board met on March 19, 2019 to continue the conversation on staffing and enrollment, to address any questions that have been posed, such as undesignated fund balance use, and to review revisions to the FY20 School Budget based on the charge of the School Board to bring the increase down to 6% over the FY19 budget.
The document, Projected K-8 Class Sizes (available on the FY20 Budget website under the March 19, 2019 meeting documents) was reviewed and discussed with particular attention to projected kindergarten numbers. Enrollment for kindergarten as of March 19, 2019 stands at 86 students, an average of 15 students per class. The projected count based on this year’s kindergarten class is 111 students, or an average of 19 students per class. The Board expressed their concern regarding kindergarten classes exceeding Policy IIB guidelines of 14-18 students in kindergarten classes. Administrators will watch enrollment numbers carefully throughout the remaining year and the summer and make adjustments, when needed. Class size discussion also included the projected 4th grade class size average of 20 students per class which is within Policy IIB guidelines (19-20 students) for grades 3 and 4.
The Board reviewed a history of the fund balance since 2015-2016. The fund balance included in the FY20 revenue is $300,000, a reduction of $100,000 from the fund balance in the FY19 budget ($400,000). Historically, the district has used the fund balance to reduce the impact of the school budget on taxpayers.
The proposed budget cuts were presented by administrators in an effort to reduce the expenditure budget from a 7.8% increase over FY19 to a 6% increase over FY19. The list of these cuts, and increases are available on the Budget website. Originally $200,000 was included in the Capital Improvement Projects for a generator that would be located between Pond Cove and Cape Elizabeth Middle School. This generator is needed to provide power to the schools in order to keep schools in session during power outages. Also, this generator is needed to provide connectivity to Town Hall and the library during power outages. The topic of the generator project was discussed at the recent Town Council-School Board Budget Subcommittee meeting where Town Council representatives reported a projected generator project at the library. It was agreed, at that meeting, to enter into a combined generator project with the hopes of an efficiency of effort cost savings. As a result of this combined effort, the School Board has included $100,000 in the FY20 budget to be added to the town funding for the combined project. This appears in the list of school budget cuts as a $100,000 reduction from the original request of $200,000.
School administrators met to discuss further reductions to the FY20 School Budget in order to meet the 6% increase. The reduction from a 7.8% increase to a 6% increase over FY19 represents a reduction of approximately $450,000. Using a focus of what would have the least impact on students and programs, and then what would have the least impact on teachers, the list of cuts was created with agreement by all. Included on the Budget website is the impact of these cuts on the major budget areas.
We are still waiting for notification regarding the range of the expected health insurance benefits increase. I have contacted Maine Benefits Trust and they expect to publish the range on March 22, 2019. We have included a projected 10% increase and are hoping to be able to reduce the budget should the range fall below that 10%. If the range is higher than 10% we will need to return to work further on the budget.
An additional document provided at the March 19, 2019 meeting, and available on the Budget website is a list of revised Capital Improvement Projects(CIP). Included on this list is the reduction of $100,000 for the generator project.
Another document that has been included on the web-site is a pie chart that reflects the FY20 Budget with the latest revisions. 83% of the chart is dedicated to salaries and benefits which represent 4.2% of the 6.09% increase in the FY20 budget to date.
A Budget Workshop is scheduled for March 26, 2019, however the Board is reserving the right to cancel that meeting, should the benefit range be optimistic. If we receive contrary news, the Budget Workshop will be needed for further work. We will post news of the meeting on the Budget website when a decision is made. I would urge citizens of Cape Elizabeth to attend these important Budget Workshops. There are two opportunities for citizen comments at each meeting. Videos of the meetings will be posted on our Budget website.
Donna H. Wolfrom