ELLSWORTH — A $23,680,977 school budget for 2021-22 found unanimous approval from School Board members April 27. The $721,182 increase represents a 3.14 percent hike from the current year’s budget, but the amount to be raised from local property taxes will only see a 0.06 percent bump, or $6,354.
“I think the taxpayers will be very thankful,” Chairwoman Jennifer Alexander said.
Higher than usual revenues are helping offset the impact on local appropriations for education, including $152,364 more in tuition from out-of-Ellsworth students for regular and special education instruction and Bridge Academy students for a total of $1.85 million. State revenues are also up, just over $200,000 for a total $4.32 million in subsidy. The state contribution to the school district debt service stands at $2.12 million, down about $100,000.
In addition, $1.8 million from the fund balance — monies left in past budgets at the end of fiscal years — will be applied to the 2021-22 budget.
In all, taxpayers are asked to contribute $11,566,605 of the $23,680,977 budget compared to this year’s $11,560,240.
“That seems like a remarkably small increase,” board member Paul Markosian noted.
Driving the budget increase are food service, where lower revenues from hybrid-model school attendance mean an increase of 40 percent or $51,607, plus $90,069 more in facilities cost as the high school begins a phased-in new roof project. Plus, adult education is up 15 percent or $32,909. Smaller increases across regular, special education, technical and other instruction, and administration, mostly account for the remainder of the $721,182 overall jump.
New positions to support foreign language studies, music and several new ed techs are included, along with a new cybersecurity program at Hancock County Technical Center.
Superintendent Dan Higgins said the board-approved budget now goes to the City Council for consideration on May 17 before voters weigh in June.
“This budget won’t change unless there’s action taken at the council,” Higgins said. And with revenues in areas such as tuition and food service uncertain, he added, “If we find out that revenues are not keeping track or that we have an unanticipated expenditures, we’re going to have to make do with this budget” or tap into reserves.
Incoming pandemic relief funds and how they can be used are still under discussion. For previous COVID-19 relief funds received by the district, the district is completing documentation of how the funds were spent that will be made public when completed.