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Trenton, ME: SPED "biggest single factor in budget increase"; 42% percent hike

Mar 14, 2019, Ellsworth (ME) American: School faces budget crisis https://www.ellsworthamerican.com/maine-news/school-faces-budget-crisis/ TRENTON — If voters at the May 21 town meeting approve the $3.97 million budget for Trenton Elementary School for next year that the school committee adopted Tuesday, property owners will pay 15.13 percent more in taxes. That increase amounts to $147.70 for every $100,000 of property valuation. … The biggest single factor in the budget increase is a 42.39 percent hike in funding for special education. About $179,000 of the additional cost is for two children whose special education needs have required their placement in other schools. Because the children are Trenton residents, the town is responsible for the cost of their education. … To help with that, Zboray is using $110,000 of the $113,000 in the school’s special education reserve account. And he is limiting school purchasing to essential items. … The preliminary budget that Zboray presented to the school committee in January called for an increase in taxpayer funding of $606,850, or 20.15 percent. Administrators and school committee members, in consultation with teachers and town officials, have trimmed that increase to about 15 percent. “Any additional cuts will dismantle education as we know it for the children of this school,” Superintendent Marc Gousse said at the Trenton school committee meeting Tuesday. “To budget even close to what may be considered acceptable by some is to eliminate positions and programs.” He said those could include “all activities, all athletics, extra-curricular programs and after-school programs.” “As I see it, you cannot cut your way out of this mess.” Gousse said he understands that a large tax increase would place a significant burden on some Trenton residents, especially those on fixed incomes, but he said the school committee “has the primary responsibility to fund education to support the needs of children.” … “But if you do drastic cuts, this won’t be a school anymore; it will be hollow…if we get rid of sports, get rid of music and all of that. So, I think we just need to go to the taxpayers, to the voters and see what they say.” … Gousse emphasized that Trenton is not unique in facing a serious budget crisis, noting that Southwest Harbor had a somewhat similar situation a few years ago….