Senate sends LePage bill to provide budget stability to school districts

Posted: March 31, 2016 | Senator Millett

AUGUSTA — The Maine Senate on Thursday enacted bill to give budget stability and predictability to school districts. The bill now goes to Gov. Paul LePage to become law or be vetoed.

With a unanimous vote, the Senate gave final passage to LD 1475, “An Act to Facilitate the Use of State Education Subsidies.” The bill is sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Millett, the lead Senate Democrat on the Legislature’s Education Committee.

School districts regularly craft budgets in the dark because, more often than not, their budgets must be ratified by local voters before a final state budget is passed. In those cases, local voters have to give an up or down vote before they know exactly how much state education money their schools will receive.

Given the state’s longtime inability to meet its full obligation for education funding, school board’s most often assume low funding and propose cautious, conservative budgets that may ultimately underestimate how much state funding they will receive.

LD 1475 would authorize regional school units to issue a warrant article to ask residents in advance what they would like to do if the state sends more education funding than the School Board anticipated.

“The legislature’s biennial budget undertaking, with late budget adoption votes, is notably out of sync with the many school district budget schedules,” said Sen. Millett. “This bill would mitigate the challenge presented by that misalignment.By letting voters decide ahead of time what they’d like to do if the state sends more education funding than anticipated, towns save time and money associated with costly additional budget referendum votes.”

Gov. LePage has 10 days to sign the bill into law, veto it, or let it become law without his signature.