Students at school on Frenchboro. The school is one of two in the MDI school system set to receive a smaller state subsidy next year. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Local schools to get state subsidy boost: Big increases for special ed



BAR HARBOR — The nine schools in the Mount Desert Island Regional School System (MDIRSS) will get a total of $631,919 more in state subsidies for special education next year than they are receiving now unless the Legislature changes the allocation formula.

According to the “preliminary state subsidy” numbers issued by the Maine Department of Education for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the increases in funding for MDIRSS schools include an extra $217,691 for MDI High School.

Nearly all of the MDIRSS schools are classified as “minimum receivers” of state subsidy funding, which means they only receive subsidies to help offset the cost of special education.

The subsidies for all of the public schools in Maine are based on $1.1 billion earmarked for education in the state’s 2018-2019 biennial budget, which the Legislature enacted last year. Some changes in the funding formula that were approved as part of the budget have resulted in an increase of $30 million for special education.

The change that is particularly relevant to MDIRSS schools is the “special education adjustment” for minimum receivers. As a result, the amount of state subsidies expected to be provided to minimum receivers will increase from 33 percent to 40 percent of special education costs.

The amount of state subsidy funding expected to be provided to MDIRSS schools are $535,970 for the high school, an increase of $217,691; $463,668 for Conners Emerson in Bar Harbor, an increase of $113,594; $336,551 for Pemetic Elementary in Southwest Harbor, an increase of $122,598; $268,662 for Trenton Elementary, an increase of $18,534; $240,845 for Mount Desert Elementary, an increase of $64,422; $146,223 for Tremont Consolidated, an increase of $46,969; and $85,732 for Swans Island Elementary, an increase of $51,394.

The elementary schools in two MDIRSS towns are to receive smaller state subsidies next year. Frenchboro’s allocation will drop by $2,732 to $6,407. Cranberry Isles’ funding is to be reduced by $551 to $24,479.

MDIRSS Business Manager Nancy Thurlow said the subsidies for those schools are projected to be lower because they spent less on special education last year than in the previous year. She noted that about two-thirds of the amount the Cranberry Isles will receive is due to the “minimum economically disadvantaged student adjustment” in the Department of Education’s subsidy allocation formula.

Superintendent Marc Gousse called the expected subsidy increases for most of the MDIRSS schools “great news.”

“But I caution you that this is preliminary; there are still some moving parts,” he told the MDIRSS board Monday night.

Rachel Paling, director of communications for the Maine Department of Education, said the subsidy figures that have been released are considered “preliminary” because the Legislature could, in the current session, adopt a supplemental budget or take other actions that affect the funding formula.

Because of that, Gousse and Thurlow are recommending that the individual school boards not include the entire preliminary subsidy figures in their revenue projections for next year’s budgets.

“We’re recommending a conservative approach of including half of that amount at this time,” Gousse said. “The Legislature could come back and change [the funding formula], and I would not want to have us in harm’s way.”

 

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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