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School Budget Update: Alt Ed Program Stays

By Zendelle Bouchard

Superintendent of Schools Matt Nelson appeared before the City Council at a special budget meeting on March 26, 2024 to present the latest version of the school budget for fiscal year 2024/25. He was happy to report that the Harvard Health Plan administrators have agreed to a 14% increase in the cost of health insurance. School Department officials were originally expecting a 17.5% increase in this plan, which covers most school employees. A three-tiered proposal for budget cuts approved by a majority of School Committee members eliminates positions at the central office as well as a custodian at the Willard Building and a district-wide behavior interventionist but retains the counselor at Sanford Middle School. These cuts, on top of those already planned (see this story: https://sanfordspringvalenews.com/big-school-budget-cuts-proposed-but-council-wants-more/), brought the net-to-taxation increase for the school budget to 7.7%.

Sanford High School’s Alternative Education Program, which has been the subject of much controversy, is not being cut.

Four of the seven City Councilors approved of that level of increase, but other Councilors wanted to see more cuts made.

At a budget workshop the following day, Nelson presented the School Committee with some additional adjustments to the proposed budget. Adjustments include moving the Willard custodian whose position is being cut to a vacant position at Sanford Pride Elementary this month, which would save money by eliminating the last few months of the Willard salary; and a revised estimate on the increase for the Anthem health plan which covers administrators and custodians. In total, the savings would be $26,424, bringing the net-to-taxation increase for the school side of the budget down from 7.7% to 7.5%.

The four School Committee members in attendance approved the adjustments. Nelson will present them to the City Council next week before the Council votes on final approval of the school budget appropriations figure. Voters will have the last word on the 2024/25 school budget at the June 11 validation referendum.

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