WATERVILLE — City councilors Tuesday will take a first vote on a proposed $20.3 million school budget for 2013-14.

The special meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the council chambers at The Center downtown.

The council must take three votes on the proposal before voters consider it at a referendum June 11.

City Clerk Patti Dubois said Monday that councilors could take two votes Tuesday or they could take one Tuesday and the final two at their meeting on May 21.

While final budget figures are unknown, the council is voting now on the proposed school budget to ensure time for absentee voting before the June 11 referendum, according to City Manager Michael Roy. Municipalities are required to have a public vote on proposed school budgets.

City officials still do not know how much funding Waterville will get from the state, whether revenue sharing with municipalities will be suspended temporarily or whether municipalities will be required to help fund teacher retirement.

“All of those, really, are open questions,” Roy said, “and I don’t think we’ll know in May on any of those questions.”

The proposed municipal budget is $17.1 million. Roy said he doesn’t know when councilors will vote on that proposal.

Meanwhile, School Superintendent Eric Haley said Monday that the proposed school budget includes the $293,000 it would cost local schools to help fund teacher retirement.

He initially did not include that amount in the proposal because the city had planned to hold the school budget referendum in July. However, councilors last week voted to hold the referendum June 11, so Haley took $293,000 out of undesignated funds, or surplus, to help fund teacher retirement if a decision is made at the state level to require that.

The local Board of Education initially considered a proposed $20.8 million school budget. Members voted May 1 to cut $644,481 from that budget, and on May 6 they cut $130,831 more, for a total of $775,312, according to school finance director Paula Pooler.

As part of the cuts, teachers who have retired are not being replaced, and a proposed kindergarten teacher position and part-time secretary for George J. Mitchell School are not being funded, according to Haley and Pooler.

About $241,000 was cut from the technology budget, and a technical aide in the computer laboratory who retired is not being replaced, they said. Some savings were realized from school officials locking fuel prices in early, they said.

Haley said he has never dealt with a budget for which there are so many funding unknowns.

“It’s the worst budget I’ve ever had to deal with as superintendent,” he said. “It’s the toughest budget process we’ve had to go through, and we still don’t have numbers. I’ve never seen that before. It’s frustrating. It’s dangerous, because once the voters vote on it, that’s your budget.”

The order councilors will vote on Tuesday says the sum to be appropriated for the school department operating budget, including that of Mid-Maine Technical Center, must not exceed $20,049,975.

Further, the sum to be appropriated for adult education must not exceed $308,117.

Estimated state aid for education is $10.4 million; estimated general nontax revenue, $2.4 million; and expected adult education revenue, $129,000, for a total of $12.9 million, according to the order.

With school appropriations estimated at $20.3 million and revenue at $12.9 million, the amount expected to be raised by taxation is $7.4 million, the order says.

Sources for appropriations include grants, fees, rental fees, state funds and the use of fund balance.

Amy Calder — 861-9247
[email protected]

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