AUGUSTA — The school board unanimously approved a $27.9 million budget Wednesday, setting up its advancement to City Council and then voters.
“I think we have a reasonable and fair budget. I look forward to presenting it to the City Council, and hopefully we can get the budget you just voted for supported,” Superintendent James Anastasio said. “It would be nice for a change to have a seamless and uncontroversial budget season.”
The budget for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade and adult education is $443,080, or 1.6 percent, more than Augusta Public Schools is spending this year.
The budget includes two programs that were threatened by cuts — elementary school band and high school Latin — and a recent addition of $126,000 for a new elementary mathematics curriculum that the school board also approved Wednesday.
Although she voted for the budget, Ward 3 board member Nicole Desjardins said she worries about how others will respond to it.
“It’s not that I don’t approve it. I’m just very concerned that the taxpayers will be willing to approve it as well,” she said.
At-large board member Larry Ringrose said the only significant addition to the budget is the mathematics curriculum, and in fact several other things are being cut. He said the increase is mostly attributable to new obligations for staff pay and retirement contributions resulting, respectively, from labor agreements and state policy.
“I’m very comfortable with this budget, even if it were to result in a slight increase in property taxes,” Ringrose said.
It’s not clear how much taxpayers would have to contribute to the budget. A state funding report released last week projects that Augusta will receive about $400,000 less in state subsidy for 2014-15, falling from $13.6 million to $13.2 million.
If that number holds, and after accounting for anticipated revenues from other sources, it would leave $12.7 million to be raised from local taxes, 5.6 percent more than the $12 million in local taxes supporting this year’s budget.
Augusta’s state subsidy easily could change before the next fiscal year starts on July 1, however.
The budget includes five years of materials for the new mathematics curriculum, a McGraw-Hill product called My Math that the school board approved 7-1 on Wednesday. After a motion he made to table the adoption failed to receive a second, Ringrose voted against the adoption because he thought there had not been adequate opportunity for public input.
My Math replaces Math Trailblazers, which Augusta bought 10 years ago.
“We have outgrown this program, and we have found that we are doing much more supplementing,” mathematics mentor Jessica West said. “It is harder to have a consistent districtwide program with all the supplementing we’re having to do.”
A committee formed last year of 11 teachers representing all grades kindergaten through five and all four of the city’s elementary schools unanimously chose My Math from among five programs they researched and piloted. West said the teachers liked the clarity of the explanations and examples in the program and that parents found the homework easier to understand.
My Math also met the committee’s criteria for addressing the new Common Core curriculum standards in depth, providing differentiation for different types of learners and offering lots of online resources for students, parents and teachers, West said.
Cony High School principal Kim Silsby also supported the purchase, saying she believes My Math will help teachers prepare students to enter the junior high and high schools without the skill and knowledge gaps that many now have.
Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the school board adopted a 2014-15 academic calendar and rescheduled the early release professional development day that was canceled on Feb. 14 to April 4.