Preliminary Gorham school budget up 4 percent

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Pictured in Gorham school budget talks Monday are, in front back to camera, Great Falls School Principal Rebecca Fortier and Village School Principal Brian Porter; seen in background, from left, are School Committee Chairman Darryl Wright, School Committee member Timothy Burns, Superintendent Heather Perry and Facilities Director Norm Justice.

Pictured in Gorham school budget talks Monday are, in front back to camera, Great Falls School Principal Rebecca Fortier and Village School Principal Brian Porter; seen in background, from left, are School Committee Chairman Darryl Wright, School Committee member Timothy Burns, Superintendent Heather Perry and Facilities Director Norm Justice.

GORHAM — Superintendent Heather Perry’s preliminary school budget is $37.8 million, up 4 percent over last year’s. 

The early spending plan is up $1.5 million from the $36.3 million the Town Council approved last year. Under the current figures, the hike would raise property taxes 79 cents per $1,000 of valuation.

At a budget workshop Monday, Perry called her budget “very preliminary,” and said it now looks as if the state subsidy to support Gorham education would rise $200,000.

The proposed budget includes $1 million earmarked for capital improvements at town schools.

“It’s where we should be,” Perry said before the workshop.

The fifth scheduled budget workshop is set for 7-9 p.m. Monday, March 27. Perry said the School Committee would vote Wednesday, April 12, on a spending plan. A school budget also requires approval of the Town Council and local voters in a June referendum.
 
Some budget details and some programs remain under review.

Monday’s School Committee workshop with Perry and school administrators included a lengthy debate about developing a plan that would give teachers in the town’s three elementary schools 45 minutes each per week for planning purposes. The plan, aimed at reducing stress for teachers, could include adding an elementary guidance counselor and a couple more teachers.

A revamped K-5 plan could allow students an opportunity to explore foreign languages.

“The projected cost to go with the preferred option” (K-2 guidance and 3-5 foreign language) would be $300,000,” Perry said Tuesday.

School Committee members and department administrators Monday discussed various scenarios of adding staff, including the pros and cons of having educational technicians cover planning times. No conclusion was reached. “Let it settle and gather our thoughts,” said School Committee Chairman Darryl Wright.

Wright said he wants a longer discussion on foreign language programs throughout the district.

Providing students with computers was another topic discussed at length at the workshop. Dennis Crowe, district technology director, said the district needed to buy 25 to 30 more computers for sixth grade students. Crowe estimated the computers would cost between $350 and $400 each. So, $15,000 would be needed to cover buying additional computers.

Laptop purchases for teachers calls for an expenditure of $11,000.

The School Committee also discussed the status of the Sebago Alliance, the interactive district collaborative that includes Gorham, Bonny Eagle, Scarborough, Westbrook and Windham-Raymond. Founded in 2004, the alliance is still in effect but no longer operates a school. The alliance still retains non-profit status, Perry said.

Wright raised questions about continuing to fund the alliance at $2,500. School Committee Vice Chairman Dennis Libby wanted to know what the alliance is doing with the money.

A proposed School Department budget will be delivered to the town next month. Town Manager David Cole said his proposed municipal budget would be presented to the Town Council on April 4. “I expect a budget workshop on April 6,” Cole said.

Robert Lowell can be reached at 854-2577 or rlowell@keepmecurrent.com