Town Tuition Initiative
GSA is deeply grateful for the support we receive from our sending towns.Most of our students, and most of our revenue, come from them. In each of the past two years, our seven "tuitioning" towns voted to supplement GSA's tuition. That supplement is an important part of the current GSA budget. In October 2022, GSA Board Chair Sally Mills '85 requested the same town supplement of $1,700. (Read that request here.) Below, we share information about our request for supplemental tuition. We hope you find this information helpful.
- What your money enables us to do for our students and communities.
- GSA's Value to our Students and Community
- Financial Documents
- Tuition 101: Frequently Asked Questions & Tax Implications for Each Town
- Voting Information 2023
Most of George Stevens Academy’s local students—and the bulk of our revenue (73% in 2022, an average of 71% over the last three years)—come from seven towns: Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Castine, Penobscot, Sedgwick, and Surry. We are grateful for the trust that has been placed in us to educate the children of our communities, and for the faith and support given us by the voters in each town, who have approved our request for supplemental tuition each of the last two years. This additional tuition is necessary because the average cost to educate a high school student in Hancock County far exceeds the state set tuition. In 2022 for example, the actual average cost in the county was $20,124, while the state-set tuition (that taxpayers must pay) was $12,480. The supplemental tuition that voters have approved for GSA, coupled with our own fundraising, enables us to close that gap and to continue to provide the wide-ranging programming and support our students need and their families desire, and to serve all the students in our towns. Going forward, the amount of our request will not grow, but will remain $1,700, and so any increases over tuition for the 2023-24 school year will come solely from the Maine Department of Education.
We are careful stewards of the public money we receive, and, as noted above, our cost per student to taxpayers is thousands of dollars below that of other local high schools, even taking into account the supplemental tuition. We provide value to our families and our tuitioning towns by offering everything local public high schools do, and more. Some examples include a wide-ranging selection of electives, including Steel Band, Outdoor leadership, Digital Storytelling, Civics, Ocean Studies (for students interested in marine careers), on-campus wood and metal shops and vocational courses open to every student, Marine Ecology Research, Architectural Design, and Music Recording and Production. We have a nationally known and celebrated music program, and we foster connections for our students to our local and larger communities through such programs as Arts Fest (connecting GSA students with the local fine and performing arts community) and our Independent Study and Internship Program, which every junior and senior participates in, and where they work with a mentor to explore a career or personal interest. Our four-year graduation rate (92.3%) is the highest in the county (86.2%) and beats the Maine public school average as well (86.3%).
In order to foster good communication with the citizens of our towns, we enthusiastically worked together with town representatives to create the Budget Review and Advisory Committee, whose mission is to review and give input on our budget each year. It is now in the midst of its work for this year. Additionally, our Board of Trustees has three special meetings a year that are open to the public, and key financial documents are posted here on our website.
We deeply appreciate the productive collaboration taking place with our local towns. We know there is more work yet to be done, and we look forward it. It is through this shared effort that we will be able maintain and improve the high-quality secondary education right here on the peninsula that our students deserve. — Tim Seeley, Head of School
This document presents a high-level overview of all we do, with an emphasis on distinctive and noteworthy features of our program, and has links to an overview of our academic departments, other features of the academic program, and the full Program of Studies.
Read recent issues of GSA Matters and our Celebration of Giving.
This document shows how GSA's graduation rate for 2021-2022 compares with other Hancock County schools.
This document gives a five-year history of ninth-grade admissions to GSA and explains work we are doing to enhance our local admissions.
- Why does GSA ask towns for more tuition than the DOE requires towns to pay?
- What is the state-set tuition (MAT)?
- How much will it cost taxpayers to educate GSA students in 2023-24?
- How will the additional tuition impact GSA's overall financial picture?
- How does GSA raise revenue apart from tuition?
- Doesn't GSA's boarding program provide additional revenue?
- How has GSA reduced operating costs?
The state-set tuition is many thousands of dollars below what it costs to educate high school students in Hancock County. Our request is based on an expected state-set tuition of $13,778 per student for the 2023-2024 school year. Our request for $1,700 equals 12% over the expected state-set tuition in 2023. See Request for Supplemental Tuition from Sally Mills.
When we speak of state-set tuition, we are referring to something called the MAT. Every year, Maine’s legislature uses a complicated formula to set a Maximum Allowable Tuition (MAT) that high schools (whether public or private) can charge students whose towns do not have their own public high schools. Every town without its own public high school, or without a contractual agreement with another high school, must pay tuition up to the MAT to the high schools their resident students choose to attend. (High schools that receive publicly funded tuition must be non-sectarian, and may be located anywhere in Maine, or even in another state.)
In addition to the tuition that towns are required to pay, they must also pay town academies like GSA a 6% Insured Value Factor (IVF). The IVF helps pay for facilities, since town academies can’t issue bonds the way public school districts can.
So, the MAT sets a tuition amount up to which towns must pay a high school like GSA. But by law, towns may decide to pay GSA as much as 15% more than the MAT. (At least two town academies in Maine have agreements with their towns to pay a tuition higher than the MAT.) The amount over the MAT that we are seeking from towns is about 12% higher than the MAT.
You can find the relevant DOE statutes here: https://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/20-a/title20-Asec5806.html
The anticipated 2023-2024 cost to taxpayers for each GSA student if the supplement is approved is $18,184. This figure represents $13,778 in state-set tuition/MAT & IVF (based on a projected increase of 3.5% next year by the state), $1,700 in supplemental tuition, $1,200 in estimated special education costs, $514 in estimated school union expenses, and $991 in estimated bussing costs.
Please note that these cost numbers are based on Blue Hill and may be slightly different for individual towns.
The additional $1,700 we are requesting is essential to our financial stability and viability, but it is not sufficient to cover all costs. Since the law caps the amount towns can pay in tuition, we will continue robust fundraising efforts through our Advancement Office and continue to use other sources of revenue, including the endowment, grants, rental income. For an overview of the programs and initiatives that tuition dollars pay for, see GSA Program.
GSA has two main sources of additional revenue: the GSA Endowment generates annual income, and our Advancement Office fundraises all year long, soliciting direct donations to the GSA Fund, holding fundraising events, and raising money for capital projects, the endowment, and scholarship gifts to help our graduates attend college. Through these efforts, GSA raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to support our students and programs not covered by tuition, but, because the state-set tuition is low, it is still not enough to cover the current gap in funding. We have also secured grants, for example, to support Boatbuilding and Steel Drum classes and to improve our Student Advisory Program. Learn about the GSA Fund. In addition, GSA raises money through rentals of its facilities, mainly in the summer.
The boarding program (International Program) started in 2006 with 7 students and grew to nearly 50 students by 2016. Over those ten years, the program generated millions of dollars used to support programs and initiatives benefiting all GSA students. No public tuition dollars were ever used to support the boarding program. However, as with schools everywhere, international student enrollment has declined precipitously in recent years, the result of market factors and the pandemic. The boarding program must pay all its own costs, and it is providing a modest surplus this year, but it is unlikely to generate the significant surplus revenue it once did. See GSA Boarding Program.
See the projected tax implications of our 2023-2024 request on each town.
Sedgwick Vote, 3/3/23
THANK YOU, SEDGWICK! More than two-thirds of voters supported GSA’s supplemental tuition request. Voting on the supplemental tuition request took place by referendum vote at the Sedgwick Town House on Friday, March 3, from 1-6 p.m.
Penobscot Vote, 3/6/23
THANK YOU, PENOBSCOT! A majority of voters supported GSA's supplemental tuition request. Voting on the supplemental tuition request took place by referendum vote at the Penobscot Fire Station on Monday, March 6, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Brooksville Vote, 3/7/23
THANK YOU, BROOKSVILLE! More than 90% of voters supported GSA's supplemental tuition request. Voting on the supplemental tuition request took place at Town Meeting at the Brooksville School on Tuesday, March 7, at 7 p.m. Voting on school articles was second on the agenda. The supplemental tuition request (Article S15) was decided by written ballot.
Blue Hill Vote, 4/7/23
THANK YOU, BLUE HILL! More than two-thirds of voters supported GSA's supplemental tuition request. Voting on the supplemental tuition request took place by referendum vote in the Blue Hill Town Office upstairs on Friday, April 7, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Surry Vote, 4/24/23
THANK YOU, SURRY! A majority of voters supported GSA's supplemental tuition request. Voting on the supplemental tuition request took place as a separate warrant article at Town Meeting at the Surry Elementary School on Monday, April 24, at 7 p.m.
Castine Vote, 5/13/23
THANK YOU, CASTINE! About 80% of voters supported GSA's supplemental tuition request. Voting on the supplemental tuition request took place as a separate warrant article at Town Meeting at Emerson Hall on Saturday, May 13, at 8:30 a.m.
Brooklin Vote, 6/3/23
THANK YOU, BROOKLIN! An overwhelming majority of voters approved the school budget, which included GSA's supplemental tuition request. Voting on the supplemental tuition request took place at Town Meeting at the Brooklin School on Saturday, June 3, at 9 a.m. The tuition request was included in the Secondary Private Tuition line of the school budget.