Lincoln school board explains spending hike

LINCOLN — A majority of the increase in spending for the Lincoln Community School next year, as set forth in a budget proposal that residents will vote on next month, is due to a change in the way the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union allots special education costs, according to the head of the school board.
The proposed Lincoln school budget for fiscal year 2015 sets spending at $2,035,197, which represents an increase of $131,926, or 6.93 percent, from the previous fiscal year.
The primary cost driver for that increase is the consolidation of special education costs under the ANeSU, which the school board has no control over, Lincoln school board chair Jen Oldham said.
“In Lincoln, over half of the budget increase is due to special education costs,” Oldham said.
Other fixed costs included negotiated salary increases for faculty and staff of between 2.6 and 3 percent, and an estimated 4.5 percent increase in health care costs.
The board was also limited in how much it could cushion those increases, Oldham explained, as it only has direct influence over a fraction of the total budget for the school.
Oldham said that $12,000 of increased spending, or less than 1 percent of the total spending, is controlled by the school board. The remainder of the increased spending is controlled by the supervisory union.
An older draft of the budget called for a spending increase of 8.05 percent; Oldham said the board was able to cut costs by whittling down spending on maintenance and furniture.
Oldham said the board feels like the proposed budget addresses the educational needs of the school.
“We feel the budget is still sufficient to continue the great educational work with the kids,” Oldham said. “We wanted to bring a budget to the town to show we made the best efforts to make sure we still kept programs for the kids.”
While other schools across the county and state face declining enrollments, Lincoln Community School’s enrollment has increased 12.5 percent over the last five years.
Oldham said that town residents will have the opportunity to ask questions about the budget at a school board meeting Feb. 17. More information about the budget can also be found here.

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