ELLSWORTH — Spending for any nonessential items has been frozen for Regional School Unit 24 (RSU 24) pending a decision by the School Board on where it will find about $335,000 in budget cuts, Superintendent Bill Webster announced Wednesday.
Webster said RSU 24’s share of the state’s planned $38-million reduction in education funding is $700,000 plus $135,000 in other needed budget adjustments. RSU 24 already has identified about $500,000 in cuts to put toward the $835,000 shortfall, he said.
“I regret this action, but a freeze is a necessary step to keep our budget in balance and will remain in place until we know definitively how we will meet the funding shortfall,” Webster said in a letter to schools.
Webster said the reductions that already have been made include, for instance, elimination of a central office administrative assistant position.
“This is not a process that just started today,” he said. “We have been working on the curtailment possibilities since August.”
Webster said the freeze on discretionary spending will remain in place at least until Nov. 17, when he plans to present the School Board with a list of possible budget cuts. He said that in making reductions it must be kept in mind that the state will make even more significant cuts in education budgets for 2010-2011.
In a Nov. 3 letter to school superintendents, Education Commissioner Susan Gendron said, “Please do not forget as you make plans for these FY 10 reductions that the reductions for FY 2011 will be even more significant.”
She said that right now it looks like the statewide education subsidies for the next fiscal year will be $910 million, which is $92 million less than the original FY 10 appropriation of $1.002 billion.
Last year, the state reduced education budgets statewide by $27 million.
Webster said, “I want it to be in people’s minds that for all of the challenge we have in meeting the present situation, it is going to be even more challenging in the next school year.”
About 25 percent of RSU 24’s $33-million budget is funded by the state, Webster said.
RSU 24 includes the communities of Eastbrook, Ellsworth, Franklin, Gouldsboro, Hancock, Lamoine, Mariaville, Sorrento, Steuben, Sullivan, Waltham and Winter Harbor.
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