From the desk of Dale Locke
To the residents of Landaff,
If you were like me your December tax bill was not pleasant. Not that any tax bill is, however in my personal case my taxes increased over $1000. As the new Chair of the Landaff School Board I have received many questions as to why the increase was this dramatic. I am going to answer that question along with where we are at financially for this year and how next year is shaping up. If you attended the budget hearing, none of this is different.
The main reason last year’s taxes increased so dramatically was the result of the 2016-17 school budget. As you know we tuition our children in grades 4-12 to Lisbon. The board determines the number of current children enrolled at Lisbon, adds two and uses that number to set our budget for the following year. The board is unable to predict the number of families that move out or in over the course of a year but historically the average is no more than 2 students on years that families have moved in. The summarized total tuition for 2016-17 budget was expected to be $532,160 when the number was set in Jan-2016. The actual cost of tuition for 2016-17 ended up equaling $621,101.
The above increase in cost resulted in two actions. First to make up the difference the school board asked the town for a budget appropriation of $63,900. Second the tuition budget for our current year (2017-18) was set at $635,550. These two steps were approved last March-2017. As you can see these 2 numbers alone made the overall town budget increase over $150,000 from the previous year. The Board is working diligently with the Selectmen to ensure both parties are kept fully up to date. As Chairman I met with the Selectmen on Feb 1st to perform a full review of the 2018-19 school budget. The goal is that in future years if the budget increases this dramatically again the School Board can work with the Selectmen to dampen the impact to the tax payers. If you attended the town budget hearing than you know that taxes will be going up again this year but not due to school expenses.
Two more things that should be noted. First tuition is calculated to the day of attendance. Example being if a family moves into Landaff for 1 month and then moves out, we will only pay for that 1 month of tuition. Second our June tax bill is calculated to be half of the previous year’s total tax bill, the difference for the current year is made up in December. Example being that if 2016 taxes were $10,000 total (June and December bills) and this 2017 taxes were going to go up $1000 to be $11,000 total, your June bill would still be $5,000 (half of 2016) and your December bill would be $6000 to total $11,000.
The 2017-18 budget that we are in now can basically be summarized as follows. Over the summer multiple families moved from Landaff which resulted in us being under budget in tuition. The new 5-year tuition contract was approved and entered by the town resulting in an additional 5% reduction in tuition costs. We have had large increases in Special Education Services, Speech Services and Occupational Therapy. Overall, we are currently under budget and expect to carry $60-70,000 over to the 2018-19 budget.
The Board and Mrs. Culver have put a lot of work into the 2018-19 budget. First, overall our forecasted tuition expenses will be $610,000 which will be down $25,000 from last year this includes 2 extra students incase families move in this coming year. Special Education Services, which are state mandated, are forecasted at $80,000 including testing services, this number is up $50,000 from last year. Speech and Occupational Therapy are up $15,000 over last year. Due to the money we are carrying over from the current year, the final amount to be raised by tax payers (district shares) is $739,284 which is down $1,944 from last year.
The Board has been asked if maintaining Blue School operations is an efficient use of Town funds. The Board worked with the SAU to calculate the difference in cost if Blue School was closed next year. For next year it would cost the town an additional $30,000 if we closed Blue School. Our goal is to build and maintain a 5-year running average of that number for the town. Based solely on my own review of previous town reports for the last 3 years I believe we have saved money every year by maintaining Blue School open.
The last topic I would like to discuss is Pre-K. Lisbon has forecasted 3 students to be enrolled in the Blue School Pre-K program with the possibility of a 4th. Landaff is forecasted to have 1 child. At the budget hearing the question was asked of cost of transportation if we did not have Pre-K. The current estimate is $100 a day plus hourly wait time. This is based of Field Trip/Sporting events, the SAU is getting a more accurate number.
In closing, the board fully recognizes the impact that the 2017-18 budget and subsequent tax increase has had on our family, friends and neighbors living in Landaff. As elected officials we have worked very closely with the SAU and Town Selectmen to ensure that our budget is clear and concise to reflect what we believe will best benefit both the town and our children for next year. Please understand that these numbers are the current forecast we will not have exact numbers until next year. Please feel free to contact me with comments and concerns.
Chair Landaff School Board
Vice Chair SAU 35 Executive Board