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Thursday, July 31, 2014
Schools see promise in survey
(Page 2 of 2)
Chris Connolly
Earlier this year, the budget advisory committee of the Baldwin Education Assembly recommended that Baldwin’s school board attempt to increase spending by more than the state’s property tax cap for the district of 3.14 percent.

Mapes, who did not have exact numbers at hand during the discussion, said that only about 1,000 parents and residents responded to the survey. (Baldwin’s population is around 30,000.) He couched his reaction in terms of the small sample size, but characterized the results of the questions about tax increases as a mix of mostly positive and undecided responses.

Mapes said that the question about transportation cuts elicited “inconclusive to slightly positive” responses. The question was included because the school board sees transportation reduction as part of a comprehensive budget package — which presents a challenge. The law requires a separate referendum for any changes in transportation policy, so school officials will have to figure out how to present two items — and two votes — as parts 1 and 1A of a single budget plan.

Although Mapes said that no strong trends were evident in the poll numbers, he appeared to feel that a cap-exceeding budget was the way to go. “The survey

indicates that, with a lot of work, we could probably pass a budget that pierces the cap,” he said.

The reactions from trustees at the meeting — and the tenor of previous budget work sessions — make it clear that the school board is strongly considering a budget that goes beyond the tax cap. The stakes in such an attempt would be high. If a budget containing tax increases above 3.14 percent were voted down, the district would be forced to offer a second proposal. It could be identical to the first, or could include spending reductions. If the second proposal failed, the district would revert to a contingency spending plan, with no increases at all. Mapes said that a contingency budget would mean $9 million in cuts to school funding.

The next budget work session is scheduled for Feb. 6, at 8 p.m., at Baldwin Senior High School.

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