SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Property tax payers here will see only a minor increase under the proposed 2015-2016 budget for the Pemetic Elementary School.
As proposed, the $3.32 million budget is $36,700 more than that for the current school year. As a result, property owners would see another 59 cents added to their tax bill for each $100,000 in valuation. And according to school officials, the tax increase might be even less by the time the budget is finalized for voter approval at the annual town meeting in May.
School principal Dianne Helprin said the expected state subsidy is $130,000, which is $25,000 more than the figure used in the draft budget. Although no decision has been made about how to use the extra funds, she said she believes it will be deducted from the total budget, thereby reducing the property tax increase even further.
The state wasn’t so generous in paying retirement costs for school employees. Helprin said the state at one time paid 100 percent of those costs, but beginning with this school year, they shifted over some of the cost onto individual schools. For the upcoming year, the school’s contribution is to increase another 3.36 percent, she said.
Enrollment at the school has been steady for the past seven years. Helprin said she expects about 150 students when school opens in September.
The school’s share of health insurance costs for employees has been budgeted for a 10 percent increase. This is an estimate; the actual increase won’t be known until the insurance provider provides that information, Helprin said.
Special education costs are up by almost $19,000. An increased need for speech and other professional services accounts for $12,000 of the jump.
School officials have been able to keep other budget lines relatively flat.
The $1.06 million for regular instruction, which includes all classroom teachers and aides, is $4,200 more than for this year.
The lower cost of heating oil is another factor in keeping the budget increase to a minimum. This year, the school is paying $3.75 per gallon. Officials have locked in a price of $2.65 per gallon for the upcoming school year. The proposed budget reflects a $14,000 decrease in fuel costs.
“That was huge,” Helprin said. “I’ve never seen that before.”
Also in the facilities maintenance budget is an extra $11,000 for a new telephone system.
“We have a dinosaur here, and other schools have already updated,” Helprin noted.