AUGUSTA — The proposed $29.2 million school budget, up by about $280,000 over the superintendent’s initial budget proposal, goes to the school board for a vote Wednesday.
Superintendent James Anastasio’s initially proposed school budget totaled $28.9 million, which was about $740,000 less than the current year’s budget.
However, in budget workshops since the budget was presented, school board members put items cut in Anastasio’s proposal back into the budget, increasing it to just under $29.2 million.
Positions cut but then returned to the budget by the board in the latest proposal total about $280,000 and include a school nurse at Cony High School at $71,000, a security guard at Cony at $27,000, and other positions, according to Kim Martin, chairwoman of the school board.
“The board was very leery of cutting any direct service positions for our students, so the board added some positions back in,” Martin said.
Also in the time since Anastasio first proposed a budget, the school department received a projection from the state of how much funding Augusta will get for its schools, although that figure could very well change as the state Legislature works on the state budget.
The recently released state funding projects Augusta would get $12.8 million, an increase of $135,000 over what Anastasio included in the initial budget.
So the increase in projected state funding covers some, but not all of the expenses added back into the budget by board members, leaving about $145,000 in additional funding which would come from local taxpayers.
Even before that change, the school budget, although it is lower than the current year’s $29.6 million budget, would have required $600,000 more funding from local taxpayers next year. That’s because the proposed budget takes less from the fund balance, or surplus, account than the current year’s, leaving more of the funding burden to be covered by property taxes.
With the restored cuts, the budget would now, if passed as proposed, require an additional $740,000 from taxpayers.
The board is scheduled to vote on the budget at their 6 p.m. meeting Wednesday in council chambers at Augusta City Center.
Once the school budget is approved by the school board, it goes to the City Council to be included in the overall city and school budget. Councilors can, and often do, ask that the school board make changes to the budget before councilors vote on whether to approve the total city and school budget. The school budget must also be validated by voters in a citywide referendum scheduled for June 13.
The school board is also scheduled to vote Wednesday on another proposal that would go to voters in June. The proposal is to seek residents’ permission for the board, if Augusta receives more state funding for education than the amount included in the budget, to use some or all of the additional funds. The board could use the money to add programming and its associated expenses back into the budget, and/or use the additional state funds to decrease the amount of money that would come from local property taxpayers.
Martin said a new state law allows school systems, if they get more money from the state than anticipated in their budgets, to use additional amounts to help fund that year’s budget. Martin said previously when that happened, the additional money couldn’t be used if the local budget had already been passed, so the additional state money went into the fund balance account.
Keith Edwards — 621-5647