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Selected Editorials from the Editor

Suns & Shields Christian Inspirational Writings by Rachelle Hamlin

Selected editorials from Dr. Katherine Albrecht, Ed. D.


The Roberts Trap is Sprung

By:  Bill Dunne
One of the most overlooked aspects of the year just ended is the vindication of Chief Justice John Roberts -- a vindication that showed up as the national catastrophe known as ObamaCare got rolling.  Roberts may have also doomed Hillary Clinton's chance to live in the White House again... click here to read whole editorial


MSAD #20 Reveals Proposed

2014-2015 School Budget


By:  David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, April 30, 2014

   Maine School Administrative District #20’s proposed 2015 budget for the 2014-2015 school year is $5,971,085.  This is $64,000 more than last year's budget but $317,385 less than their budget of just five years ago.

   While the school's budget has remained fairly consistent over the past ten years, they are actually doing a lot more with a lot less money considering the purchasing power of today's dollar.  For example, when the school budget was $5.8 million in 2005-2006, gasoline and milk were around $1.99 per gallon and an economical loaf of bread was $1.00.  Silver hovered around $8.00 per ounce and gold around $300.  After the financial collapse of the derivatives market in 2008 and the subsequent pumping of trillions of new, counterfeit Federal Reserve Note dollars into the U.S. economy by the private, for-profit Federal Reserve bank, the purchasing power of the U.S. dollar underwent a precipitous decline, causing the prices of all of the aforementioned products to at least double, and at times triple in price in comparison to their 2005 levels.  Today, nearly all products in the marketplace are around double - or 50% more than - the price they were in 2005 when the school's budget was $5.8 million but the current MSAD #20 budget has only risen to $5.9 million, or an increase of only 2.2%.  If their budget had kept pace with the declining value of the U.S. dollar - as many other products and services in the marketplace did - it would be somewhere around $12 million today.  Using money with the purchasing power of the 2005 U.S. dollar, the MSAD #20 school board is operating with an equivalent budget of around $3 million.

    This degrading and devaluing of the U.S. dollar is something the school board has had to grapple with, along with everyone else who is stuck using that debased currency.  The corrupted monetary unit is due to a failure of leadership at the Federal level and an unwillingness of Congress to return to the money mandated in the U.S. Constitution, instead, passing their responsibility off to a private banking system - the Federal Reserve - which has failed impressively at fulfilling their stated mission of establishing a sound, solid currency in the U.S.

   In order to keep pace with the declining dollar, MSAD #20 has undergone some major staffing cuts.  “You can't cut a budget without cutting positions.  Positions are about 75 percent of our budget,” said MSAD #20 Superintendent, Marc Gendron.  “You can cut paper and pens all you want but you're not going to make any kind of serious reductions unless you cut staff.  Most of the cuts over the past few years have been through attrition because that has the least negative impact.”

   The school has eliminated 3.5 positions from the current year's budget, with 3 positions eliminated in last year's for a combined total savings of around $350,000.  10.5 positions have been eliminated since 2010.

   When looking at budgets from other schools within a 20 mile radius of Fort Fairfield, Fort's school system ranks as number 2 for the least amount of money requested from local town revenue (excluding debt service), at $1.97 million.  Washburn schools came in first place, only requesting $1 million from their town.

   Washburn schools draw the least amount of money from their town's revenues of all the schools in the area due to their ability to obtain money from other sources.  “Washburn is the example that everyone in the state looks to as far as getting Medicaid money,” said Gendron.

   “It's not so much about numbers as what do those numbers mean and do we have enough money in our budget to balance off the needs of the kids versus the needs of the community and the taxpayer.  What we're trying to do is become more efficient.  One of the ways we can do that is to try to have some control over the expenditure side of the budget.”

   David McCrea, a lifelong inhabitant in Fort Fairfield and career-long employee of MSAD #20 reflected on the changes that have been made and are still to be made in relation to staffing cuts and consolidation of teaching responsibilities in the school district.  “I'm awfully concerned about some of the things that have been thrown at us both at the town level and the school level, as well as the State, as far as funding.  I'm very concerned about it.  It affects my taxes, as well as everyone else's in town.  It affects a lot of us in a lot of different ways.  I'm not speaking how it affects me personally,  not at all.  I'm very concerned that we as a town take stock of what we want to be when this is done, or five or even ten years from now.”

   McCrea noted that the state has saved an enormous amount of money by not sharing it with the communities.  In this time of budget cuts, he suggested both school board and town council consider at what point should they stop cutting in order to preserve the quality of life and infrastructure that the town uses to attract new people to live here as well as providing the services townspeople have become accustomed to.  “We really need to take stock in considering what we want to be as a town and school and at what point are we not going to just continue to gut ourselves.  There's got to be that point somewhere.  We might be there, we might not be there, that's really not up to me to say.  But there is a point at which we don't want to go below.  There has to be because if you go below that, what have you got left?    You're on a downhill slide to becoming a town without a school system that's worth having, a town that doesn't have the departments it needs to run as a good town we've all lived in and learned to love.  This is a very general idea but I feel it very strongly from every aspect that I can look at.”

   In addition to staffing cuts, the school did realize a significant savings with their new bio-mass wood chip boiler that has reduced their fuel oil consumption by 80,000 gallons over the first two years of its operation.

   While staffing has been reduced, so has student enrollment.  With K-12 student enrollment at 541 in 2014, the school sees a fluctuating annual enrollment number that overall is tending toward the downward side.  Of the students enrolled, 2/3 of the Elementary school population has qualified for Free or Reduced lunch, while around 51 percent of the Middle/High School students qualify.   “There are issues that go along with that socioeconomic number,” explained Mr. Gendron.  “But these numbers determine the amount of grant money we can get, or even which grants we can apply for.”

   The per-pupil expenditure for MSAD #20 was $10,120 for the 2012-2013 school year, which is 12.6% below the state-wide average of $11,583.

   Gendron says in the time of these staff reductions it's important to note that the school also made progress academically.  “Four out of the past five years we've improved on our statewide tests.  Another thing we've improved on greatly was our graduation rates.  Our graduation rate was 81 percent this year.  It's not as good as we want it to be but it's a real improvement over what we had in the past.  That is something we really want to continue to improve on.”

   This year's budget also has an increase of $74,000 over last year’s since the State of Maine mandated the shifting of retirement fund costs from the State level to the local level.  The school will also buy a new bus this year for $85,000, which will be reimbursed nearly in full by the State next year.  Gendron says the plan is to buy a new bus every year for at least the next five years in order to update the fleet.

   The current share of school budget being requested from the town is equivalent to 57% of the town's tax receipts, or $2.2 million.  In 1988 that share was as low as 48.25% and as high as 69% in 2002, prompting some to wonder what happened between those years.  “We're always getting mandates and that was a time of much increased demands in what people expect of schools and the role of schools as they expand to cover socioeconomic needs of the community, in my opinion,” explained Gendron.

   The MSAD #20 school board is currently finalizing the proposed budget where it will be taken to the community for a full vote in June.







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