WATERVILLE — The Waterville Board of Education at a special morning meeting Wednesday voted 7-0 to accept recommended cuts and a revenue increase in the proposed school budget.

The changes reduce the proposed $21.4 million school budget to $21.2 million — an amount that allowed city councilors late Tuesday to take a first vote on a proposed $37.4 million municipal and school budget that would increase the tax rate of $27.40 per $1,000 of valuation by 50 cents.

The council previously had considered a $37.8 million budget that would have increased the tax rate by $2.50, but Mayor Nick Isgro and some councilors said they wouldn’t support that and urged cuts be made.

Eric Haley, superintendent of Alternative Organizational Structure 92, which includes Waterville, Winslow and Vassalboro schools, told the Waterville Board of Education on Wednesday that existing staff members wouldn’t be lost as part of the most recent changes to the school budget. Existing staff would be used to fill spots vacated by employees who have retired and/or resigned, he said. The three towns in the AOS have separate school budgets, and Wednesday’s meeting was solely about Waterville schools.

“We’ve been able to save existing jobs we have by putting people into vacant positions,” Haley said. “We’ve been able to save what we budgeted for the vacant jobs.”

About a dozen people, including school board members, turned out for the 7:30 a.m. meeting in the superintendent’s office.

The original school budget called for $652,226 in additional tax money, but school officials reduced that number to $208,238 by decreasing proposed expenditures by $177,818 and increasing the amount of revenue by $235,000. Haley said $135,000 of that $235,000 is additional general-purpose aid that schools anticipate they will receive from the state.

The remaining $100,000 comes from two sources. In the original school budget, officials planned to use $200,000 from surplus, but added another $50,000 in the latest changes. They also originally planned to use $200,000 of MaineCare money to support the budget but added another $50,000.

One of the expenditure cuts included reducing the hours of a technology integration specialist.

Board member Pam Trinward said the technology budget gets hit hard every year.

“The biggest thing we do for our less fortunate students is to give them some computer skills, because that’s what it’s about. That’s a skill these students need,” she said.

Meanwhile, Haley emphasized that the $135,000 officials anticipate schools will get in general-purpose aid is not a given, and he thinks the number is low.

“What if we end up getting more money from the state?” board member Joan Phillips-Sandy asked.

“If you get more money, you don’t spend it,” Haley said. “It drains into undesignated for the following year and (is) used to offset taxes the following year.”

The City Council must take two more votes on the proposed municipal and school budget in order for it to be final. After the council’s final vote, the Board of Education must take one last vote to finalize the school budget.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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