Franklin Countys First News

Letter to the Editor: On the MSAD 58 budget

As a parent of MSAD58 kids and a Kingfield taxpayer, I thank everyone who showed up last night at the Budget Meeting. The good news is that the taxpayers who came to the meeting voted to add back the teacher positions and 3rd location of pre-K. But with that vote comes an additional bill. The Department of Education has already told the District what they are receiving - No more money is coming from them. Someone has to pay for it and that someone is the local taxpayers. That is the bad news.

Superintendent Pratt did a great job explaining the "perfect storm" that descended upon our school district - big raise in the mill rate dictated by the State, less tuition students & less resident students which equal less state funding, big increase in health insurance rates and my personal favorite: The creation of a $54k Tech position to process student data so that we can ensure that the district receives the correct state/federal funds. In summary, expenses are up along with higher demands from the State/Federal Government but the District is receiving less money to pay for all of them. That's where we, as local taxpayers, get to open our pockets and pay more money.

I don't know if the school budget will pass in all the towns but I hope it does. Kids need a dedicated teacher. It was explained to me by school staff that if the 2nd & 3rd grade are combined, the teacher will do a lesson for the 2nd graders and then they will go off with the ed-tech to practice. Then the teacher will do a lesson for the 3rd graders who will then go off with the ed-tech to practice, etc. In theory, it sounds like it can be managed but when you combine this mix of ages/educational levels with the behavior issues our school deals with EVERY day, the most likely outcome is that our kids will, at best, get taught HALF of what they should be.

If the towns vote down the budget and the teachers are not added in, one does not have to be a psychic to see that there will be more kids leaving and/or not moving into the district. As a result, there will be less funding from the State and we will continue this vicious cycle we find ourselves in.

I came away from the meeting last night with more understanding of the challenges the school board and Superintendent face. I have already seen over the years the challenges that the teachers and principal face so it was enlightening to hear about WHY we have all these cuts to our school.

In conclusion, change is coming to our area whether we like it or not. Major cuts to school budget, higher taxes, Families leaving the area, Families not moving into the area, etc. What is the answer to stop this downward spiral? That is something we all need to come together and figure out.

Julie Swain

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16 Responses »

  1. Nice letter, Julie.

    As I see it....

    A: Manage spending so that, with a decreasing number of students, the budget also remains flat/decreasing, rather than always increasing. This will allow property taxes to remain affordable and not drive people out of the area. This is not some high-tech, non-understandable problem, it's actually quite simple, but requires work and compromise. Not just calling the other side 'mean' or anti-education.

    All one needs to do is look at surrounding towns in other districts to see how harmful the tax increases have been. It truly does impact home ownership; lower income ppl. And let's not forget, the 'magic State money' they always talk about? Yeah - we pay that, too. And the bonds...and more. They're not separate issues, unless you're independently wealthy.

    I'll leave it at that, without pointing fingers. That is the answer, like it or not, and it WILL come down to that, sooner or later. Or lose your communities. Consequences. Same story everywhere.

    Wonder if the moderator will post this; it goes against the party line here.

  2. Time for some TRUTHS that went untold in Mrs. Pratt's "great job explaining things".

    In part, the reason we "receive less funding" from the State, is a SELF IMPOSED penalty!!

    1) Last budget "season", we received 21% LESS funding than we were ENTITLED to because:
    We are 11 teachers OVER the State EPS on the teacher "line".
    Not replacing the retiring 3rd Grade Teachers would have increased the dollars that we received from
    the State. (say nothing about the salary/benefit line on this years' budget)

    There WERE/ARE responsible ways to accomplish a Multiage classroom in any of our schools, with enrollment as it is currently. That task was left to each individual school, to do what was BEST for their need/building. (NO micromanaging by school board)
    IF Kingfield parents were unhappy with the choice that their building made, that is where the/their conversation belongs!

    2) Administration: We receive 53% LESS funding than we are ENTITLED to because: EPS tells us that we
    should have 2.4 Principals, we have/maintain 4.7 Administrators.

    We leave/have left ALOT of money on the proverbial "table."
    This year, if student numbers as promised decline, and we maintain the teacher numbers that we currently have, these percentages will increase, and MORE State dollars will be taken from us, and LOCAL BURDEN will increase!
    Mrs. Pratt's "perfect storm".....may well have graduated to a self imposed Sunami.

    I think that if the towns do vote this budget IN, and we INSIST that LOCAL taxpayers continue to subsidize irresponsible & greedy school WANTS (not needs) we won't be able to attract families TO our "organized" towns! In large part, because the tax burden is/will be too high.....
    It is quite publicly spoken that Maine is becoming more of a "retirement community". (which translates to FIXED incomes) Many of these folks have lived and worked here their entire lives, and we are taxing them out of their homes! (or into losing them! Strong had 53 +/- liens placed on properties last month!!)
    No psychic abilities needed here either!

    And now Julie Swain's "personal favorite":
    The Tech Position: That was NOT created THIS budget season! That was CREATED and BUDGETED for LAST year! (the position was not filled til Dec2017) Some see "value" in the position others do not.
    However, we are NOT "penalized" for this position.

    Consider this: Our Superintendent has assured us that student numbers WILL CONTINUE to decline!
    So, every year we choose to "CELEBRATE" 71 people at our District Budget Meeting showing up and voting "against" some RESPONSIBLE and very difficult decisions by the School Board to make some sensible adjustments/change, BY putting the dollars BACK INTO the Budget~ WILL only serve, to place the/a larger BURDEN squarely on the back of the LOCAL taxpayer!
    You can "CELEBRATE" if you want......I think it is SHORT SIGHTED and IRRESPONSIBLE on so many levels.

    Our School Board worked since early February on this Budget, it was difficult and often a very painful process, and in less than 2 hours, it was all for nothing.
    It was laughable, maybe offensive, that a SAD 58 employee/teacher "thanked" the School Board on the way out of the meeting.....I'll go with my gut, on this one and tell you that it had an arrogant/sarcastic tone to it.

    The percentages above, that represent uncollected State dollars, will only continue to increase as Mrs. Pratt's promise of fewer students entering the system shows itself.
    AND: 71 people show up with partial information, and or self serving motives and VOTE BACK INTO the budget significant amounts of money, that were carefully considered & discussed.
    (one woman/employee relative :), that had NEVER been to a single Budget meeting, tried to add back 123k into the WRONG article! She made a similar error earlier in the meeting)
    Can you smell a "set up/plant" from where you sit and read this??
    Does the general public realize that in 2017 63% of our budget/your tax dollars were consumed by SALARIES & BENEFITS?? These CANNOT BE TOUCHED as the Board considers cuts~
    So, as the School Board looks to make reasonable/responsible "cuts", there is only 37% left to "work with"!! It certainly doesn't make things EASY.

    I don't wish the Board to have to go through the/this process again.....I truly don't!
    But, this Budget is NOT RESPONSIBLE! And it is NOT the Budget of MSAD58 Board, the budget you will vote on June the budget of 71 people that showed up Tuesday night.

  3. Very nicely said Kim Robinson. Julie Swain, what concerns me is that I have had conversations with you in the past and have seen your posts on Kingfield Community Forum in the past concerning the MSAD58 Budget and how families are not moving into our town and families are being driven out of our town due to the high cost of real estate taxes due to the school budget, and now you come to this years budget meeting and write letters to the editor about how pleased you are that voters showed up at the district budget meeting to add back in $124,000.00 for Pre-K and two teaching positions. You heard the conversation from Superintendent Pratt that these monies are going to have to come from the taxpayer. How does this help your concern about the rise in real estate taxes and families not affording to move into our town? I will be interested to see what your stance is going to be next year. Ever heard the saying, "You can't have your pie and eat it too"? The school board has worked endless hours on trying our hardest to make this years budget affordable for all. It has been a painful process. Is it the best case scenario? Absolutely not. Can it work? As Kim pointed out, this is a plan that both the building administrators and the teachers came up with. Not the board. I trust their judgement. Hours of difficult conversation and tiring work went into this budget, only to have certain individuals come and add the $124,000.00 back into it with no consideration of the families on fixed incomes.

  4. Great post, Simi's Mom. I think these facts have been relayed before, but unfortunately, those having an agenda choose to repeatedly ignore them and sweep the facts under the rug.

    School board members are elected in each town, which means that your town trusts someone enough to make decisions on what is best for your children, your district, and your town's school budget. They are your representatives - LET THEM DO THEIR JOB. They attend the meetings (frequent, often long meetings that take them away from their families), they gather all the facts, they hear all sides of the story, and they make informed decisions - or sometimes judgement calls - based on what they feel is best or what they know from experience is going to work. And then as noted previously, that can all be undone by a group of individuals who don't attend meetings, don't have all the facts, and have a personal agenda. That's a huge slap in the face. Next time, if you don't trust someone enough to represent your town and your children, don't vote for them. And while you're at it, throw your hat into the ring to see if you can do a better job.

    As far as getting new families into the area, there is another issue that goes beyond just the financial reasons for attracting and keeping "new blood". Lets look at how new families are treated once they move here, shall we? For the most part they are treated rudely and as outsiders. They are not given a warm welcome or allowed into the inner circle. All I hear is endless whining about attracting new people to the area, and then once you get them here they're treated so horribly that they don't want to remain in such an unfriendly environment. Who can blame them??!! Basically it comes down to this: you want their tax money, you want their household numbers, you want their money pumping into the local economy, but you do not actually want THEM. How are people from "away" ever supposed to fit in and be a member of the community? We'd better start thinking about how we approach this issue, as well as the financial aspect of the situation, or the area will continue to disintegrate.

  5. Since when can increases from the floor be allowed? I believe this is something new... It used to be just decreases were allowed.... Can someone please explain?

  6. Looks like dejavu for MSAD58. Teachers putting pressure on parents, with the vision to save jobs and trying to hold positions that can be cut because of decreasing enrollment + School board not getting along with teachers + parents trying to figure it all out= students lost in the battle. MSAD 58 headed in the wrong direction.

  7. Kim Jordan- I believe you are school board chair of MSAD 58. Should a school board chair show specific verbal attack on a parent who is trying to ensure her child has the best education? It appears that Julie is invested and has children in the schools, member of the community you serve. Respect will go further than a verbal spanking.

  8. I am writing this letter for the parents of MSAD 58 students and the citizens of our district. I have been on the school board for the last three years and realize that I cannot make a difference on this board or in this district. That is the reason that I have not run to do another term. I have taught school for forty-six years and have been retired for two years. I love teaching and respect all the students that I have had over the years. I spent many afternoons after school helping my students with academic and personal issues and giving them an ear when they needed it. I taught an extra two years because I believe in the PBE (Proficiency Based Education} philosophy. I knew there had to be a better way for both the gifted students and the slower students in my class. The PBE did it for both ends of the spectrum. I am wondering why, if we indeed are teaching the standards, that having two grades together would be a problem. Each student should be treated individually as to what standard they are working on. I am sure that some students in the upper grade would be working on the same standard as someone in the lower grade. It gives the students in the lower grade a chance to work hard instead of waiting for the slower students to catch up. The 5/30 Julie Swain’s letter to the editor in the Daily Bulldog that I had read said half the class was going to be for one class, then the other half for the upper class. It does not seem that much thought was going into how to make this an excellent experience for all of them.
    One of the committees I was on was the negotiation team. I was on it my first year and my last (this year) on the board. My philosophy was so different than the teachers on the team. The last two issues on the contract year were interesting. The teacher team wanted to get paid if they had to have meetings (IEP, etic) at the end of the school day. IEP meetings are for the students most likely not to graduate or have a problem learning in the classroom. They are our most vulnerable. The teachers felt they had to be paid to do these meetings. I, in turn, told them they were salaried employees and it was part of their job. They then began to whine about having so many of them while other teachers had very few. I did not empathize with them because again, it was part of their job. They insisted that being paid would show them they are respected to some extent. So here it is parents, they are there for your students, but it ends when the school day ends. Going to meetings for your children must be paid extra if it goes beyond they school day. I realize that this is not true for all teachers, but it certainly was the teachers representing all teachers for their contract. Their salary for the next three years was again, giving them a substantial raise over the next three years. The reason for this, they said, was to attract teachers to our district. With declining enrollment, how many new teachers are we going to hire. We are eleven over EPS and it cost us a lot of money for this. The School board worked very hard on this budget. In one district meeting, I felt all our work was for not. I, personally, thought that we should have taken one principal from the high school and replace her with a retiring principal. That would have brought up more in line with EPS and we would not have lost monies next year. It does not seem to me that people care about the rising tax bills that people will get this year. Some elderly, on a fixed income, will be losing their homes. I urge you to GET OUT and VOTE NO on June 12th. The people of our towns must stand up and speak for what is right for everyone concerned.
    Barbara Worthley

  9. Joanne: Thank you for your observation(s)
    I think you will find that MSAD58 is currently @ a "cross road", and as Julie Swains letter acknowledges:
    "Change is coming, whether we like it or not".
    Change is hard, for some it is harder than others.

    Our District is about to "move forward" in discussing what the change will look like.
    I hope in very short work, we CAN & WILL move together as a group!
    Parents/Teachers/School Board and Taxpayers. When we do, Students WILL benefit.
    It will require hard work, hard conversations and telling each other the TRUTH!
    About where we are......and where we want to be.
    What we CANNOT DO, IS STAY WHERE WE ARE! (as much as 71 people would like us to do)
    I honestly believe that we are NOT headed in the wrong direction.....and the students WILL NOT be lost.
    The goal and intention should be that there is NO BATTLE......Just truth, reality and compromise!
    WE ALL NEED EACH OTHER...….None of the Towns in MSAD58 can "float the boat" with out the other.
    And the sooner we believe and embrace this "fact", the better and more quickly we will arrive at our destination!
    It is and should be about POSITIVE "speak" and how we can DO and BE BETTER as a GROUP.
    (still honoring the things that make us unique as individual communities)

    Clearly THAT is TRUE...….when 71 people come to the District Budget meeting with the sole purpose of returning carefully thought "cuts", back into the budget.
    KNOWING FULL WELL, that the dollars will be placed DIRECTLY on the back of LOCAL taxpayers.
    AND knowing that we are 11+ teachers over in our EPS!
    That all by itself is incredibly DISRESPECTFUL! But, wait......there's MORE!

    Brian~As Kim Jordan and I individually stated, the Board spent months (4) and untold hours working on this budget. In an honest effort to BEGIN to address the EPS teacher "overages" (11+) that we have in our District.
    As I think you understand (?), these "overages" cost the District HUGE sums of money that go uncollected and then subsidized on the LOCAL level) BECAUSE "WE" choose to remain 11+ Teachers over and 2+ Administrators over.
    It was thought, because 2 teachers were retiring June2018, this was certainly "the path of least resistance". and a VERY good place to start! (certainly better that "pink slips"...…!)
    Our declining enrollment MORE than suggests that WE CAN AND SHOULD begin to address
    this "problem".
    Spend a few minutes, if you haven't already, scrolling thru April and May Kingfield Community Forum and "entertain" yourself with Mrs. Swain historically contradicting herself on the subject of TAXES in Kingfield.
    While you are at it.....see if there is anything that relates to Kingfield's Economic Development, in her posts.
    And we can all do homework together, and see who's "community" she chose to "develop" economically with her own business.

    Last, I was aware......we lived in AMERICA. (even if it does feel like an alter universe sometimes)
    Mrs. Swain is entitled to develop economically what ever community she chooses. I would NEVER suggest otherwise!
    But, I was raised to know that talking out of BOTH sides of one's face~never usually ends well.
    I'll let you do your own "homework".

    I did not/do not consider Kim Jordan (regardless of her "title") as verbally attacking Julie Swain.
    I consider that she was stating she FRUSTRATED(??) that after 4 months and countless hours, trying to present a RESPONSIBLE budget, that took Students, Teachers & (here's a BIG/NEW one) TAXPAYERS into consideration, was completely UNDONE in less than 2 a relatively small group of people with personal agendas and some totally uninformed. (see my first post)
    I suspect she just might be,(?) what normal person with a beating heart wouldn't be!?!
    Is she AS entitled to her opinion, as Julie is to "CELEBRATE" with her Letter to the Editor"...….SHE absolutely IS! (regardless of her "title")
    Again, last checked, it is AMERICA.

    My life experiences tell me that a person EARNS respect..... And is/should be treated respectfully when and until, they have EARNED a reason to be treated otherwise.

    On JUNE12th, we will have the opportunity in each town to VOTE on MSAD58's School Budget.
    The Budget that will be before you IS NOT the budget of the School Board of MSAD58.

    Please, do what is right for ALL citizens in OUR Communities~
    I too urge you to VOTE NO on June 12th.

    Respectfully Submitted, Kim Robinson

  10. Please don't think that standing up and speaking your mind at a budget meeting is being "disrespectful". It's your right guaranteed under the Constitution and is something special in our country. Keep in mind it's not "the board's" budget, it's the budget of the entire community. Nobody should get offended when someone may disagree, that's the basis of our system of government and culture. The process is set up so that anyone who wants to get involved or make a comment can do so. As Ms. Robinson said several times, this IS America and everyone should have a say in the budget, not just a few elected people. How many showed up and spoke in favor of the cuts as the budget was being developed? None. There were plenty who did speak against the cuts.
    Also keep in mind, if you ever want to attract people into our area, that the first thing they look at is the school system. A community that supports the students will encourage people to move here, while one that doesn't will discourage people from investing in our area. Unless you want the retirees to pay for ALL of our services, including town expenses, you need to figure out how to attract people to this area. Cutting education, while increasing town expenses will discourage people from moving here, and encourage people to pull their children from our schools to send them to schools that do support students. Every student we lose means less money from the state, and more expense for the locals to pay. While ultimately all the money from the state comes from the people, less for us means more for areas that don't need it.
    Instead of continually cutting education, consider looking carefully at how town money is spent. Does each town need their own grader, which sits idle 355 days a year and depreciates, while they could either sell them and share a grader, or hire someone who does it for a living do the work and end up with better roads at a reduced cost? Check out how much they cost, how much they depreciate every year and then let's talk about cutting education. Look at the county roads and see how well they function. Show up at town meeting and ask how things can be consolidated with other towns and let's talk cutting education. Consider contracting some road work out to people who do it correctly, for a living, and see if money can be saved. Then let's talk cutting the future of our kids.
    Schools show which direction a community, or culture, is going. Please consider:
    1) School funding has always been contested. Someone paid for our education and we need to pay it back by providing a quality education for our future, which is our children.
    2) The solution to our problems may mean a shift away from funding education by property tax, which hurts the elderly, to funding based on income, which shifts the ability to pay towards those who can most afford it. This would help retired people on a fixed income who struggle to pay taxes while those who have the ability to pay get off easily.
    3) Elect state representatives next fall who will listen to our concerns and help reduce local property taxes, instead of shifting funding away from rural areas towards urban areas. Cutting revenue sharing has placed a tremendous strain on our local communities.

  11. Good morning,

    In response to Kim Jordan and Kim Robinson, I would ask them to refrain from personal attacks and keep to the matter at hand. If anyone has any question about my contribution to the schools and/or economic development of Kingfield, I'd be happy to meet over a cup of coffee and discuss about my donation of hours and effort to give back to this area that has given so much to me and my family.

    That being said, we have a short term problem, the 18/19 budget and a long term problem, the structure of MSAD58.

    To solve the short term problem, voters have to decide to go with:
    a) Voting no on the current budget and revert to the Boards recommendation to consolidate 2 classes in both Kingfield and Phillips and remove Pre-K in one of the schools. Despite these deep cuts, towns will see an increase in local taxes.
    b) Voting yes and reinstating the teachers, keeping the Pre-K and having an even bigger increase in local taxes.

    For the long-term problem, it is encouraging to hear that discussions are being had by the Board and Superintendent to figure out a solution. The school districut currently consists of 3 schools, all with declining enrollment, within 18 miles of each other. If we were talking about a business instead of a school district, the clear solution would be to consolidate all 3 locations to serve the same population while reducing costs considerably. This choice will most likely make everyone unhappy in some degree but, in my opinion, is preferable to the annual cuts that have occurred for how many years?!?!

    Discussions about long term solutions need to continue and it would be nice if members of the School Board would encourage dialogue, while agreeing to disagree, instead of replying with a verbal smack-down. It would be much more effective if personal feelings were left at the door and we all work together to find the right solution for our kids and for our taxpayers.

    Respectfully Submitted,

    Julie Swain

  12. Thankyou Julie. I admire your courage and tenacity for the kids at KES and MSAD 58. You have given so much of your time to KES and your voice has support from alot of parents. Please do not get discouraged. I wish I was as strong as you are to publicly speak how we feel but in small town America it is hard, especially if you want to not be bullied. More parents are looking elsewhere for schooling outside of MSAD 58. The comments from the school board not supporting the teachers or the parents adds fuel to their search. Where is the leadership?

  13. The school board worked hard to develop a budget, that budget was responible. It made hard choices but was something that needed to happen. Yes teachers were upset, yes parents were upsets, and yes taxpayers were upset but it made the tough decisions. It is time to look at the future and change how MSAD 58 does business. We need to consolidate schools and make sure we can educate our students locally. It is not going to be easy or pretty. It will be messy and it will be difficult but it is time we do something.

    Teachers set up two taxpayers that were not educated about the budget. They let those taxpayers do the dirty work because they don’t want to come off as selfish. But they did and they didn’t offer viable solutions. This budget the way it is today is not a solution.

  14. Before we jump into consolidation, we owe it to our students to build a budget from $0 and go up instead of start at the previous year's budget and take things away. There are so many places to save money, we just need to treat the school budget the same way we would our household budget. Starting with transportation would be a good place. We could save hundreds of thousands of dollars if we, as an MSAD #58 community, decided to re-evaluate how much transportation we expect this district to provide. Just a thought for next year before we revisit closing small schools and building a mega campus.

  15. We live in America where we have a freedom to express our opinion. This should be done without fear of having that opinion affect how people treat each other. Yes the school board spent hours preparing their budget, but at many of these meetings discussion was closed off to citizens who came, disrespectfully. The meeting at the high school gave these citizens a voice. If the school board and their leader, Sue Pratt did not hear what these citizens who took the time to come and voice their opinion had to say, they should not volunteer their time sit on the school board. Our political process is unique, let’s have respect for it and value it.

    The 71 people who showed up discussed several aspects of the budget, not just the $124,000 which was amended to add the pre-k and teacher for Kingfield. Some of the decisions I agreed with, some I did not. I however respect the process and came to terms with those areas I disagreed with.

    The budget now goes to the towns for ratification on June 12. Get out and vote and let your voice be heard. Do what you feel is best for your community.

    I also recommend that we have a forum over the summer to discuss the future of our school district with all three towns present. We could make some recommendations to our school board which would insure financial stability to the taxpayers as well creating an environment which would attract younger families to our community and all we offer.

  16. With all due "Respect"
    There were NO meetings closed to the public as it relates to Budget issues. Not ONE.
    We do in fact have Executive Sessions, never do they relate to 'budget" issues. Those are reserved for personel/employee/private issues. (that is the LAW)

    Julie Swain~ I would love to accept your offer of sitting for a cup of coffee. (a very good idea!)
    Any thing said in my post(s) is fact based, NEVER once did I question your time spent in schools or community. So, lets talk about moving forward/schools and kids! I have no contact info for you. You may reach me at SAD58 e mail or our land line. Thanks in advance.

    KES PARENT~ I too consider anyone that stands up and speaks, or writes in a social media forum and actually identifies themselves by name.....BRAVE! (yes, that includes Julie)
    With that courage, should come the understanding/knowledge and acceptance that people WILL disagree, perhaps respond and perhaps even correct "us".
    It is NOT recommended for the faint of heart or anyone with "thin skin".
    One should not be allowed to pass on incorrect information unchecked.
    A "contributor" should probably avoid "flip flop(ing)" on a position/subject, in order to avoid being "called on their stuff". (I realize that this is my opinion, but it's not bad advice)

    MOVE ON~ I do NOT think that speaking ones mind is "disrespectful". Clearly you take some creative license with my words. And perhaps you could read them again.
    If you would identify yourself, I would love to have a longer conversation. I am not difficult to find in the community. I welcome/encourage you to contact me.

    I welcome anyone that wants to have a longer respectful/constructive/honest conversation to contact me.
    Whether we agree on the subject or not.

    I know I could go on and on.....But, I won't! (yes, I'm happy about it too!)
    If people don't understand the message I wish/try to convey, no amount of "explaining" in this venue will suffice.

    Respectfully, Kim Robinson