St. John Valley

Madawaska School Department approves $7.8 million budget with no increase to taxpayers

MADAWASKA, Maine — The Madawaska School Department approved a $7.8 million budget, which officials said will not bring an increase to local taxpayers. 

Director of Finance and Projects for Valley Unified Lucie Tabor, which provides administrative services to Madawaska School Department as well as SADs 27 and 33, said the team worked hard to ensure there would not be any increase on the school budget’s part for local taxpayers to pick up.

The budget will go before the voters at a budget hearing which is not yet scheduled due to gradual reopenings from the COVID-19 quarantine. 

The new budget increased by $463,609 from $7,346,118 to $7,809,727, but the increase is offset by other departments, revenue and state funding.. 

The budget process this year was difficult due to COVID-19. Normally, the Madawaska School Department would have had the final budget ready in April to be presented to voters at the referendum, which usually took place in June. 

But COVID-19 brought halts in the budget process to make room for immediately important matters such as designing and executing a remote learning plan and ensuring that children — including nonstudents — were fed for the remainder of the school year. 

The Madawaska School Department with Valley Unified have accounted for that need in the coming budget. 

“Our budget expenditures show a significant increase in the School Nutrition Program in the event that we have to continue providing home meals for an extended period of time,” Tabor said. “We need the authority through the budget process to do so. There will be revenues from a State Agency to cover these costs, so there will be no increase to local taxes.”

When the team was finally able to return to the budget process, Tabor said they realized they needed to make adjustments to account for the possibility of distance learning going into the start of the school year. 

“We need to ensure that we can deliver learning in many ways at any given point in time,” Tabor said. “Whether it’s having our learners back in the school buildings, or having them doing remote learning or a combination of both — some in the buildings and some doing remote learning. We need to ensure our buildings provide our staff and learners a safe learning and working environment by instituting safety protocols, as recommended by the Maine CDC and the Department of Education.”

Other areas to help offset the taxpayer obligation included transportation, spring sports and professional development — all costs cut down during COVID-19. 

“These savings will be used to offset taxes for next year’s budget and bring the local share to a zero increase,” Tabor said.

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