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Happy Labor Day Weekend.

Labor Day is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers – and it gives many of us a day off, to leave behind the hustle and bustle of our jobs.

It’s the start of the football season and the beginning of an exciting 4-week finish to the baseball season, as the Red Sox hopefully enter into the playoffs.

And, for children, their families, educators and administrators, it means school is back in session.

This year, we are working on major changes in the administration of K-12 education.

This past June, the Legislature approved a plan to consolidate the school administrative units in an effort to reduce property tax burdens, put more resources into teachers and classrooms and less into Administration overhead.

The plan calls for no more than 80 districts, down from 152.

Since passing the law, meetings have been taking place among existing school units, all tasked with creating new partnerships between communities that will better serve our students and taxpayers.

Friday was an important day in this process – it was the deadline for communities to submit their initial reports on consolidation efforts to the state officials.

Early feedback I am receiving is that most communities are working cooperatively with neighboring districts and developing innovative and exciting ideas for the future.

I am also hearing about a few districts that seem to prefer the status quo - using inaccurate data to say that savings will not be achieved.

The status quo for most districts is not an option.


Just look at your property tax bill – it continues to increase despite the state now funding 55% of local education.

We’ve now committed $800 million NEW dollars over the last four years – money that should have been used for tax relief, or invested back into schools.

Instead, property taxes are still rising, not enough of the new money is making it to the teachers and the classroom and education costs have continued to increase, despite enrollment in public schools dropping by 43,000 students over the last 30 years.

Ironically, in the same time period, we have gained in Administration. We are now spending $2,000 more per pupil than the national average for administration of education.

That’s why my plan will put more money into the classrooms, where it belongs.

We can’t live in the past and rely on an infrastructure that worked 50 years ago.

The state has already undertaken an effort to streamline state government and eliminate Administration.

We’ve merged Information Technology, Human Resources, payroll and accounting functions across all state departments to save over $11 million in all funds and improve accountability across state government.

We’ve reduced state spending in Health & Human Services by $130 million by streamlining Administration and better managing the care of managed care services.

But we realize that more needs to be done. Maine is a big state with a small population.

Maine cannot afford the amount of Administration we have. We must be more efficient and more focused.

We have chosen to consolidate from 152 districts to 80 to provide property tax relief, while increasing excellence in our education system.

We’re now requiring four years of math and science. We are trying to make sure that everybody has the access for higher education.

Now, we’re going to continue to work together with school districts, superintendents and other educators on this plan.

The next deadline is December 1st, when final organizational plans are due. If you have ideas or input, I encourage you to speak with your town officials.

In the meantime, there is more work to do finding savings across the board.

The Legislature has set up an online suggestion box at Maine-dot-gov for you to submit ideas for savings.

I have personally gone over those suggestions, and I have really found some of them to be very helpful. I am hoping that we continue to have your input and suggestions, and at the same time to be able to share with you information about what already has been done.

As I talk to people about the steps of eliminating a human resource and budget people, and IT people in each of the state departments, they were unfamiliar with those changes, saving $11 million over the biennium with that action alone.

There are many other areas that we have worked hard to economize and stretch dollars. At the same time, there are many more areas that we need to continue to look at and demand from the departments and agencies better quality services and being able to do it with fewer tax resources, allowing our citizens the tax relief and opportunities to be able to provide for themselves and their families.

So, I ask you to work together as we position Maine to take advantage of the 21st Century.

Thank you – and have a great Labor Day Weekend.

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