AUGUSTA — School officials described on Wednesday the need to boost funding to teach English to a growing number of students who don’t speak it well, or at all, and meet the needs of all special education students, including those who need costly out-of-district placement.

The proposed $28.9 million school budget includes $94,576 to hire two new teachers, $97,319 to hire four new education technicians, and $24,330 to hire one new interpreter, all to work with the city’s increasing population of students whose primary language is not English.

Superintendent James Anastasio said the school system has about 140 such students, up from 90 students just since the start of the year. The additional staff members, he said, are needed to be able to meet the educational needs of those students.

Special education spending also is budgeted to increase next year, with the out-of-district placement budget proposed to increase by $102,374 to cover the projected costs of placing two new students into out-of-district programs, bringing the total number of students so placed to 12, according to Lynne Adams, special education director.

She said special education students are placed in out-of-district programs if their educational needs can’t be met in an environment that is safe for both them and other students in the city’s schools.

“At that point, we feel we need to look to outside services, and those are costly,” Adams said.

She said Augusta uses four out-of-district programs, with costs ranging from $45,000 to $70,000 per year, per student.

Other increased projected special education costs next year include $16,000 for a new half-time occupational therapist, $18,000 for a half-time teacher of students who are deaf, and $40,000 for a sign language signer for deaf students.

Adams said the services are necessary, and they are required by regulations

Augusta’s special education budget includes funding for 31 special education teachers and 37 special education technicians, supplemented by federal funding, which covers the cost of an additional 15 special education technicians.

The $28.9 million school budget proposed by Anastasio is down about 2.5 percent, or $740,000, from the current year’s budget. But with less money, unspent in previous years, available to help offset the budget, it would require about $600,000 more from local property taxpayers.

Last year’s $29.6 million school budget used $3.5 million from the district’s fund balance account to lessen the budget’s effect on taxpayers. The account had reached more than $5 million and is generally made up of money unspent in prior years.

Anastasio’s proposed budget for next school year uses $2.1 million from that account, which essentially would use up the remaining money, leaving little to help offset the effect of the following year’s budget on local taxpayers.

Proposed cuts in the budget include three elementary school teachers as the district plans to adjust which school students attend, to balance class sizes better, saving about $110,000; elimination of one of two nursing positions at Cony High School, saving $71,000; elimination of Project Pride at Farrington and Gilbert elementary schools, which both also have dean of students positions, saving about $82,000; eliminating a computer laboratory technician’s job, saving $53,000; and cutting one of two security guard positions at Cony, saving $27,000.

Another school budget workshop is planned for 6 p.m. Monday, with time allotted at that meeting for the public to give input on the proposed budget.

The school budget, according to the Augusta City Charter, is subject to approval first by the school board, and then sent to the City Council, which includes it with the overall city and school budget, by April 1. City councilors can, and often do, ask that changes by made to the budget; and they must approve the school budget as part of the total budget. Finally, the school budget goes to city voters in a referendum to be validated, tentatively planned for June 13.

Anastasio said building a budget at this time of year is especially challenging because how much revenue, including state aid, the district will get next year is not yet known.

He said the state recently released a document indicating how much state funding each school system in Maine will get from the state, but that document frequently changes as the state budget goes through the process of approval by the Legislature and Gov. Paul LePage.

That state funding projection indicates Augusta would get $12.9 million from the state, $159,178 more than it got from the state this year, and $135,349 more than local officials projected it would get in the proposed budget for next year. However, Anastasio warned those numbers are sure to change before the state budget is finalized.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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.