WATERVILLE — The Waterville Board of Education approved about $1 million in cuts to a proposed $20.9 million school budget in what the superintendent is calling the worst budget year he has ever seen.

Superintendent Eric Haley said the other communities in Alternative Organizational Structure 92 — Winslow and Vassalboro — also are facing an extremely tough budget year.

“In all three communities, it’s the worst budget that I’ve had to put together, and this is my 12th year,” Haley said.

The Waterville board on Monday voted 7-0 to approve a proposed $19.8 million school budget, which represents a 0.09 percent decrease from the current $19.9 school budget.

The School Board must take two more votes on the proposal, but wanted to take a first vote before meeting with the City Council tonight in a work session to review the school and municipal budgets.

Haley said he wanted councilors to understand that the proposed school budget is not lavish, and that it reflects a serious loss of revenue, including loss of state subsidy and $261,324 Waterville received from the federal Education Jobs Fund last year that it will not receive this year.

“We need to ask the city for $605,000 more in local taxes for a budget that’s less than last year,” Haley said. “Last year, we asked for $6,144,179; this year, we’re asking for $6,749.275.”

The meeting with councilors is scheduled for 5:30 tonight in the council chambers and will precede a regular 7 p.m. council meeting.

The proposed school budget approved by the board Monday includes a plan to cut 12 5/8 teacher positions, according to Haley. Those jobs include 5 3/8 positions held by teachers who will retire at the end of this school year, he said.

Haley said he asked school administrators to come up with position cuts at every grade level so everyone was treated fairly. The proposed cuts include a special education teacher’s job, three teaching positions at George J. Mitchell School, one at Albert S. Hall School, three and one-eighth positions at Waterville Junior High School and 4 1/2 positions at Waterville Senior High School.

The fractions represent retired teachers who agree to come back to work half-time and by law, those coming back are paid at 75 percent of the going salary, he said.

Textbooks, equipment, technology, repairs, maintenance and supplies also are represented in the proposed cuts. Both Haley and Finance Director Paula Pooler emphasized that the numbers could change between the first and final votes on the proposal.

Board member Pamela Trinward, a former state representative, said she thought it interesting that no one has been talking about L.D. 1, a citizen’s initiative to have the state fund 55 percent of education costs.

“Bottom line is, there’s no money,” Haley said.

School Board Chairman Lee Cabana said he could not imagine the hours Haley and Pooler put into developing the proposed budget.

“We’re just the recorders,” Haley said. “The real thanks goes to the administrative team who took a look at this and said, ‘This is what I need to just keep breathing.'”

Cabana said before the meeting that if the proposed budget gets final approval, services probably would be reduced and the loss of teachers would mean larger classes. He said Waterville has tried over the last two decades to reduce class size.

“This is huge,” Cabana said. “This is probably the most devastating budget we’ve ever seen — ever.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]


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