WATERVILLE — The Board of Education on Monday night voted 6-0 to approve a proposed $20.3 million school budget for 2013-14.

But members expressed concern about approving a budget while not knowing whether the schools will have to fund part of teacher retirement and how much money schools will receive from the state.

“I just want to say I’m nervous,” board member Pamela Trinward said. “I’ll vote, but I’m nervous.”

School Superintendent Eric Haley said that he also was nervous and that the budget is the worst one he and Finance Director Paula Pooler have ever had to develop.

“There are more than a lot of unknowns,” Haley said.

The board must take one more vote on the proposal, after residents consider it at a referendum June 11.

City councilors tonight are expected to take two final votes on the proposed school budget.

Haley explained that the board has cut $775,000 from the proposal and he recently included $293,000 in the plan for teacher retirement funding, in case state legislators approve Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal to have local municipalities fund part of that.

Haley took the $293,000 from the undesignated fund, also known as surplus.

Trinward, a former state representative, said she was concerned that taking money from surplus creates a hole that ultimately must be filled.

Haley explained that if the Legislature approves the requirement that municipalities help fund teacher retirement, he wants to make sure the schools are covered and that he does not have to go to City Manager Michael Roy and say the schools need more money.

“To be, I think, fiscally responsible, we need to be on the uphill side of this issue, if it does pass,” Haley said.

He told the board that the City Council took the first of three needed votes on the school budget last week, with Councilor Karen Rancourt-Thomas, D-Ward 7, the lone dissenter.

“She was very clear she was opposed not to the budget but to the situation the governor has put the Legislature in, such that we don’t have hard numbers at this point in the school year,” he said.

Board member Joan Phillips-Sandy asked if it matters that the board takes its second and final vote on the proposed budget at its first meeting in July — after the referendum. June 30 represents the end of the school’s current fiscal year.

Haley said it does not matter. He said that while the school board does not know final numbers, it must take a first vote on the proposed budget prior to the June 11 referendum.

“We do need to have a first reading so the public knows that the board supports the budget as is,” he said.

Meanwhile, board member Maryanne Bernier remarked that Democrats are not happy with the idea of making local municipalities fund part of teacher retirement.

“I’m not sure anybody is happy about it,” Haley said.

Trinward said the problem is that two unknown balls were thrown into the air — the teacher retirement issue and state revenue sharing. She said teacher retirement is not getting as much attention.

“It’s hard to keep both balls going,” she said.

Haley said all municipalities are in the same situation.

“Everyone is operating on soft numbers with major decisions to be made,” he said.

Board member Victoria Duguay was absent from Monday’s meeting.

Amy Calder — 861-9247
[email protected]

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.