AUGUSTA — Educators in a program serving special education students at Capital Area Technical Center sought to get funding for the program reinstated into the proposed $26.8 million proposed school budget Wednesday.

School board members, however, didn’t respond to their request at the public hearing and the budget is headed for a board vote in a week.

The budget as proposed is $106,000, or 0.4 percent, less than the current year’s budget.

However because of revenue decreases it would require a property tax increase of about $400,000, or just less than 2 percent, from city taxpayers.

A public hearing on the budget drew only two commenters to Capital Area Technical Center on Wednesday, the second night of the annual Chizzle Wizzle variety show in adjacent Cony High School.

Both of the speakers were instructors in the diversified occupations program at the technical center, which serves special education students and supports staff members with special education issues.

The diversified occupations program is cut in the proposed budget, saving $184,000, according to Superintendent Cornelia Brown.

While only about a dozen students are enrolled in the academic classes of the diversified occupations program, teacher Rene Albison said she and the two education technicians in the program provide crucial support to special education students and the staff that teaches them at technical center in multiple ways.

And about one-third of the students taking classes at CATC, which most years is between 120 and 140 students, have some special education needs.

Albison said the staff of the diversified occupations program work closely with instructors in the trades programs, making sure the needs of special education students in their classes are met, file and disseminate individualized education program records which all special education students have, facilitate off-site meetings regaring those records with the staff of the eight schools that send students to the technical center, and communicate with sending schools regarding the needs of their special education students attending the school.

Albison said it is wrong to eliminate the entire diversified occupations program just because enrollment in its academic classes is low. Last week, several CATC trades instructors said they feared they could not meet the needs of special education students without the support they get from the diversified occupations staff.

“The staff needs this support, I hope our board truly listens to them,” Albison said Wednesday. “The needs of these 120 to 140 students are still there.”

Other proposed cuts in the budget include a $45,000 reduction in the legal budget; concurrent elementary school bus runs, $140,000; a new boiler at CATC, $75,000; leasing, instead of buying, technology, saving $86,000 this year; elementary school furniture, $52,000; all freshmen sports, $27,000; a half-time gifted and talented teaching position, $25,000; a half-time art teaching position, $24,000; the reduction, from multiple teams to just one team per sport at the middle school level; reducing adult education support staff and instruction, $26,000; and a reduction, from full-time to half-time, of an English as a second language teaching position.

The budget is up for a Board of Education vote March 28. Following that vote, the budget will be forwarded to the Augusta City Council, which ultimately approves both the city and school budgets.

According to state school funding estimates, Augusta would receive $12.3 million in state education funding, which is $470,000 less than it received last year, an approximately 3.7 percent decrease.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]


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