AUGUSTA — High School hockey, Latin, deans of students at Farrington and Gilbert elementary schools, high school freshmen sports, and a program in the elementary schools that helps at-risk and other students with academic support and social skills are among programs that could be cut as Board of Education members struggle to trim roughly $700,000 from the school budget.

Without cuts the proposed school budget would increase property taxes by 11 percent.

Board of Education members said they cannot submit a budget with that large an increase to the City Council, which approves both the city and school budget.

Superintendent Cornelia Brown said cutting the budget by $700,000 would result in an approximately 1.5 percent, or $400,000, tax increase.

Most board members said they would agree to submitting a budget that called for a 1.5 percent tax increase.

That doesn’t include any potential tax increases needed to fund the city budget, which has not yet been proposed.

Last week Brown proposed four tiers of potential cuts the board could make, with tier one the “least painful” and tier four the most painful.

Board members indicated last week they could live with Brown’s proposed tier one and two cuts, which Brown said would cut $611,000. That would mean $79,000 still had to be trimmed.

Board members debated potential cuts Wednesday including getting rid of high school hockey, which would save $33,000; phasing out Latin, saving $16,000; freshmen sports, $27,000; and the Project Pride elementary school program, which serves between 18 and 60 students in a number of areas, including drop-out prevention, academic help, social skills and behavioral issues, saving $114,000.

Those join other potential tier three and four cuts discussed last week, including eliminating the elementary band, saving $102,000; a high school administrator, saving $90,000; and middle school athletics, saving $37,000.

Board Chairwoman Susan Campbell said cutting freshmen sports would have less impact than cutting middle school sports because freshmen could still participate on junior varsity teams at the high school.

Tier one cuts, and their potential savings, include forgoing enough buses to pick up all elementary school students at the same time, instead of the current staggered pickup times, $140,000; delaying replacing a boiler at Cony High School, $75,000; leasing, instead of buying, a maintenance vehicle, $20,000; buying less new technology, $86,000; and reducing the legal expenses budget, $45,000.

Tier two cuts include a half-time gifted and talented teacher, $25,000; a half-time art teacher, $24,000; not buying new furniture for elementary schools, $52,000; taking money from the fund balance reserve account of adult education, $70,000, and reducing adult education support staff and instruction, $26,000.

Staff members also emailed suggested cuts to the board, including eliminating bonuses for administrators, eliminating Brown’s provided car, eliminating coaching stipends and closing Hussey Elementary School.

Campbell said more solid student enrollment projections are needed before closing Hussey should be considered, but that could be a possible cut next year if enrollment numbers indicate Augusta could operate with one fewer elementary school.

Brown said the administrator bonuses, which are tied to the academic achievement of students in their schools, were negotiated into contracts and can’t be eliminated without the consent of the administrators.

Business Manager Karla Miller said the amount of state funding Augusta schools get is difficult to project year to year. Over the last five years, her analysis showed Augusta is gettting $2 million less from the state than it did a few years ago.

“So we’ve lost $2 million in the last five years, from the state,” said Larry Ringrose, board member. “That’s a shock. . .I hope people understand that.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

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