AUGUSTA — The proposed $27.5 million school budget would hit property taxpayers with a 4.26 percent tax increase, cut some teaching positions while adding others and is based on state aid estimates that may be reduced.

Spending in the proposed budget is up 1.95 percent, or $525,000, according to Superintendent Cornelia Brown.

Brown cited a decrease in revenues as the reason why the proposed budget would result in a tax hike.

While state education funding for Augusta was projected to increase by $194,000, other revenues are down, Brown said. She anticipates the city’s schools receiving no Medicaid funds, as it has received in the past, nor any funding through the federal Education Jobs fund, which previously brought Augusta $266,000.

“It’s a revenue problem, not a spending problem,” Brown said.

The budget would cut two programs from the Capital Area Technical Center, the Diversified Occupations program and its one teacher and two education technicians, and the Cooperative Education Program and its lone teacher.

Brown said both programs are worthy, but there just aren’t enough students enrolled in them.

Other cuts include one electrical technology ed tech, one half-time secretary at Farrington Elementary School, and one half-time English language learner teacher at Cony High School.

“All these positions are valuable. I wish we could maintain all of them,” Brown said. “I think, in a better economy, we’d be able to continue these things. But with the economic environment we’re in, you have to prioritize, you have to contemplate a series of hard choices.”

Positions added to the budget include a special education teacher for the functional skills program; an occupational therapist; an increase, from half-time to full-time, for the Gilbert Elementary School dean of students; a half-time Cony art teacher, half-time gifted and talented teacher, and a part-time ed tech for the building and construction program at CATC.

Brown said the additional special education teacher and occupational therapist are needed because of an increase in students with those needs, the Cony art teacher was added to meet a Board of Education goal to increase course offerings at Cony, and the gifted and talented position would help meet a state mandate Augusta increase its gifted and talented offerings for younger students.

Brown said overall the staff changes will result in three fewer full-time positions.

The inclusion of the $194,000 increase in state funding is based on projections the state Department of Education made last year.

Brown, noting Augusta relies heavily on state funding to run its schools, cautioned that local schools could end up receiving less funding than projected as the state deals with its own ongoing budget problems.

“The number is always one that is moving, usually down, and I don’t think this year will be any different,” she said of state funding.

The Board of Education will be negotiating new contracts with teachers and two other bargaining units this year. Brown said no money was included in the budget to pay for any potential salary increases.

The budget will be presented to the Augusta Board of Education at their 5:30 p.m. meeting Wednesday in the cafeteria at Capital Area Technical Center. Follow-up discussion is likely at the Feb. 6 Finance Committee meeting.

The school budget will ultimately have to be approved by both the Board of Education and the City Council.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]


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