WINSLOW — The school board has rejected making more cuts to its proposed $14.2 million budget, throwing the issue back to Town Councilors to decide.

Monday’s unanimous vote comes amid a tense budgeting season that has resulted in the resignation of board member Nancy Aldrich and a fiery email from Superintendent Eric Haley regarding the council’s decision earlier this month to cut the school budget by $97,000.

If the school board makes the cuts, it would mean taking about $78,000 from textbooks and more than $19,200 in money allocated for a new school bus, according to Haley.

For School Board Chairman Ronald Whary, the cuts were too much for the Council to ask. The school board has already twice reduced its proposed budget from what it initially proposed, he said.

“If we don’t support our own budget, then we can’t expect the council to,” Whary said. “My recommendation is that we don’t support these cuts.”

The Winslow Town Council has the authority to make changes to the combined municipal and school budget, but it is up to the school board to make cuts to specific line items. Winslow residents also vote on the budget in a June referendum.

At a council workshop April 1, the school board and administrators proposed a $14.2 million budget, which would have increased the property tax rate in Winslow by 26 cents per $1,000 worth of property. The tax rate in Winslow has not changed in the past seven years.

According to Haley, he was told by Town Manager Michael Heavener after the workshop that the council would support the proposal, but was later asked to submit ideas for $97,000 in cuts called for in an amendment to the budget floated by Councilor Ken Fletcher. The amendment was approved by the council at its meeting April 13.

Winslow is part of AOS 92, which includes Waterville and Vassalboro. The three towns share administration and some other services, but maintain separate boards and budgets.

Haley said that working on three different budgets often made it difficult to get the board and administration together for multiple workshops to go over sudden changes in the budget like those requested by the council.

“We don’t have the luxury to focus in on one budget,” Haley said.

Addressing board members,Whary said that Fletcher “can’t give us a good reason” why a tax increase wouldn’t work.

“We spend more money than that on junk food,” he said.

At the request of Whary, board member Earl Coombs made a motion to reject the cuts which was approved unanimously by six members of the council.

After the meeting, Superintendent Haley said that it would now be up to the council to decide if it wanted to keep the reduction. If it did, the school board would be forced to make the cuts before sending the budget to voters on June 11, he said. The council will meet May 11 to vote on the budget.

Board members also accepted the resignation of Aldrich, who announced her immediate resignation on April 16 in response to an email Haley sent to Fletcher that was sharply critical of the cuts he proposed.

In an interview last week, Aldrich said her frustration with how the administration handled the budget process led her to resign from the board.

On Monday, Whary said the way the budget was conceived this year was the same as it had been in the last 13 years.

“So I really don’t see what the problem was,” he said. “If she doesn’t want to be on the board, then we shouldn’t be pushing her to do it.”

Aldrich was elected to her seat representing District 4 to finish off a term in 2012 and was re-elected to a full three-year term in 2013.

According to the town clerk’s office, in the event of a vacant seat, the town charter allows for the board to appoint a member until the next general election. Because it is too late to put in nomination papers to get on the ballot in June, however, candidates won’t have a chance to run for the open seat until November.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire


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