WINSLOW — An open discussion during a meeting to discuss the proposed 2012-2013 budget for Alternative Organizational Structure 92 boiled down to a simple question.

“The state, in its infinite wisdom, told us that consolidation would save us a lot of money,” said Jon Ramgren, a Waterville resident. “Have we saved lots of money?”

Eric Haley, superintendent of AOS 92, said he has always maintained that it would take several years, perhaps 10 years, to see the benefits of consolidation.

“But, the quick answer to your question is no,” Haley said. “I don’t think you’re seeing any large chunks of money that we’ve saved, but we have seen a slow down in the escalation of costs.”

Haley’s response ended a 40-minute question-and-answer period prior to a Wednesday vote on the proposed budget at the Winslow Junior High School auditorium. Voters passed the recommended budget, but not without some drama.

The proposed budget called for a 6.29 percent increase, or $104,906, over the current spending plan.

AOS 92, in which the three communities share costs for a central office and top administrators, has 18 employees. Projected salary and benefit costs for 2012-2013 will rise by $65,102 for system administrators, $31,546 for transportation and $8,256 for special education, according to the proposal. Those costs account for 90 percent of the total budget.

The total approved budget is $1.7 million. Vassalboro’s share is $329,182; Waterville’s is $857,367; and Winslow’s is $585,863.

Under the current year’s budget, the towns’ shares are $311,580, $808,197 and $547,730, respectively.

Winslow resident Richard Hutchinson motioned to amend the order of business. Hutchinson asked that voters address the budget’s bottom line before voting on the budget’s individual articles.

When that motion carried, Hutchinson proposed voters fund the administration at the same level as last year: $1.6 million instead of $1.7 million.

Haley said reducing the funding below the recommended amount might cause staff reductions.

Hutchinson argued that funding the administration at the same level for two consecutive years would not constitute a budget cut.

Winslow resident Joyce Blakney disagreed.

“It is a cut if you go with flat funding and fixed costs go up,” she said.

After discussing the motion, a majority of voters opposed the Hutchinson’s motion.

A second motion asked voters to consider cutting the proposed budget by $22,000. Two people voted in favor of that cut and the motion failed.

A third motion asked for a $52,453 cut to the proposed budget, or half of the proposed increased. That motion gathered more support, but ultimately failed.

In the end, voters approved the recommended funding, and the other articles were approved in short order.

Ben McCanna — 861-9239

[email protected]

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