RSU 29 cutting a little over 10% of teacher positions

RSU 29 cutting a little over 10% of teacher positions
RSU 29 cutting a little over 10% of teacher positions
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 12:37 PM EDT
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HOULTON, Maine (WAGM) - A little over 10% of teacher positions will be cut in the RSU 29 school district. News Source 8 caught up with RSU 29′s superintendent to learn more about the decisions made and how this will impact the school system.

Some teaching positions in the RSU 29 Houlton school district will be cut. RSU 29 administrators voted last Tuesday in the district budget meeting to cut 10.4% of teaching positions.

Richard Lyons, the superintendent for RSU 29, says the decision came down to two components.

Lyons explained, “Number one is our student account drop by about 50 students and our property valuation went up. And when your property valuation increases, and student count decreases. That does not bode well for state funding. As of a result, we lost $61,037 from state funding as compared to this year.”

The school budget is increasing 1.37% and the local increase is 11.43%, making the budget around $15.7 million.

Going into the meeting, Lyons’ says voters had hoped an increase in expenditure articles would keep teacher jobs safe.

“What happened at the district budget meeting Tuesday, the first eleven articles of a district budget meeting are expenditure articles. The voters increase expenditure articles by approximately $310,000, however the revenue stayed the same. So therefore the budget is identical to the budget built with the exception if we were to receive additional state money, we do have permission to extend our budget by $310,000 more. By very simplistically is if no additional money is received, then our cap is what the original budget was. So the bottom line is revenue has not increased in this point of time,” said Lyons.

Lyons says there are about 80 teachers in the school district. While it is a difficult decision, Lyons says the school has taken advantage of resignations and retirements.

Lyons said, “We have an administrative team and obviously utilize the collective bargain and contract in the provision reduction for it. Fortunately we were able to take advantage of resignation and retirements equaling 7 or 8. We are actually looking at when everything is calculated with the reduction of two teachers, one teacher on a continuing contract and the other two for probationary teachers. So as far as layoffs if you look at if from that perspective, we have three teachers out of the 10.4 that we started with. Again taking advantage of retirements and resignations that we have seen over the last two months.”

Lyons says the budget is always difficult when you lose state money, and adds it could get more difficult in the future if the student count continues to decrease.

“Approximately 78% of our budget is state money. When you have less state money and less students, then obviously it makes it very difficult. I would add that our enrollment projection, between now and 2031, looks at a drop of students in the count of approximately 200 students. So I would envision that budget may be very difficult given the student count drop anticipated over the next 7 or 8 years,” said Lyons.

According to Lyons, the teachers have been told about the final decisions. He says there is one contract that still has to be terminated, and that will happen at their next board meeting on June 5.