WATERVILLE — The Waterville Board of Education on Monday approved a proposed $24.4 million budget for 2018-19 after also approving two sets of cuts — one for $265,455 and another for $52,613.
The board, which voted 7-0 to approve the budget, must take one more vote on the proposal and the numbers could change before that final vote.
Eric Haley, superintendent for Alternative Organizational Structure 92, which also includes Winslow and Vassalboro schools, said any more cutting would mean cutting staff.
Haley called the first batch of cuts “Tier One,” and the second, “Tier Two.”
“It is my belief that if we go to Tier Three, we’re talking personnel,” he said.
The Board spent just under 1.5 hours discussing school needs and what could be cut. They were faced with difficult decisions such as whether to cut a special education position, social worker, individual education plan coordinator or behavior teacher.
Within the budget the board passed Monday were recommendations by Haley that included $85,085 for two self-contained education technician IIs at George J. Mitchell School, $60,898 for a social worker at Albert S. Hall School, $42,542 for an education technician II at Waterville Junior High School, $60,898 for a Waterville Senior High School resource teacher, a science teacher for alternative education for $60,898 and a high school business teacher for $670,898.
The current budget is $21.7 million and the budget the board passed Monday represents an increase of $2.3 million dollars from that number, but school finance director, Paula Pooler, said that is not what schools are asking for in taxes because revenues and state subsidy will offset that amount. Schools are asking $981,625 in local taxes, she said.
Increases in the budget are reflected in more pay for teachers, education technicians and others, group insurance and fuel.
Tier One cuts totaling $265,455 included many items including money saved by leasing rather than buying Chromebooks and an insurance savings of $173,195 because insurance was budgeted at 10 percent and came in at 3.9 percent. Tier Two cuts totaling $52,613 included proposed costs for carpeting and lighting for the junior high school, painting and electrical repair at the Mitchell School, painting and flooring at the Hall School, interior doors and hardware for the high school, chairs and rack for boys and girls basketball for the high school, acoustic shells and social studies web subscriptions.
The board discussed special education requests with Tabatha King, co-assistant special education director, who said the needs are great. Officials also discussed the need for a half time math teacher at the junior high, with board member Susan Reisert, who serves on the math committee, saying more teachers are needed to focus on math.
“The math numbers aren’t where they should be,” she said.
Member Joan Phillips-Sandy said she wants to see more faculty in the high school; Reisert agreed.
“We’ve already cut back way too much on the high school,” she said, adding that unfunded mandates are being forced in municipalities and Waterville “gets slammed.”
Trinward said these are not easy budget times, the board can not ask for everything, and members have to be good stewards of the city’s money.
But on the subject of teacher salaries, Trinward was firm: increasing their pay is the right thing to do, she said. She and others said Waterville’s teachers are paid less than those in other central Maine communities, including Madison.
“I think we’ve been underpaying our teachers for a long time,” Trinward said. “If we’re not careful we’re going to end up with Oklahoma.”
Phillips-Sandy said some of the proposed budget items not being included are those that benefit not only special education but everyone and she wanted to the board to consider adding in one item totaling $60,000. She made a motion to make that amendment to the proposed budget, but the board rejected.
Members approved Haley’s recommendations 7-0 and then approved the entire proposal.
Haley noted that the School Board and City Council will meet at 7 p.m. April 24 to discuss budgets.
Amy Calder — 861-9247