WATERVILLE — The City Council on Tuesday will review a proposed $21.8 million school budget for 2017-18 that includes $535,000 in proposed cuts from the initially submitted $22.4 million budget.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. in council chambers on the third floor of The Center at 93 Main St.

School Superintendent Eric Haley said Monday that the Waterville Board of Education looked at the initial $22.4 million budget proposed for 2017-18 and determined the council would not approve that amount, so Haley proposed cuts that include replacing some retiring teachers and a guidance counselor at the top of the pay scale with those who would earn less money, not filling coaching positions at the high and junior high schools, reducing hours for a math teacher at the alternative school, eliminating a school resource officer position, foregoing supplies, a wireless upgrade, a painting project, exterior lighting for the junior high and other cuts.

The school was also able to realize $98,696 in insurance premium savings because the cost was less than expected, according to Haley.

He said the school board likely will vote on the proposed cuts at its May 3 meeting, but board members wanted to meet with councilors on the proposal before voting. The budget is still considered the administration’s budget, and after the school board votes, it becomes the board’s budget, he said.

Mayor Nick Isgro on Monday afternoon said he thinks councilors will need more than one budget meeting with school officials to go over the proposed school budget. He pointed to the fact that the city charter requires schools to issue the mayor, city manager and councilors a detailed estimate of funding for the school budget at least two weeks prior to the joint meeting of the school board and council. But he said city officials just got the school budget summary on Friday and it is not detailed.

“I have no idea how we’re supposed to have a productive discussion on the budget tomorrow night, when we have yet to see anything with regards to detail in the school budget, “Isgro said.

He added that last week, he saw a line-by-line budget that includes 3 percent pay raises for administrators and wondered if that will be reflected in the proposed school budget councilors will see Tuesday night.

“If the City Council hasn’t had a chance to see it, how are we supposed to comment on a budget that, when you look at it in its entirety, is the size of a novel?”

While the proposed school budget reflects an increase of $674,172, or 3.18 percent, from $21.8 million in 2016-17 to $22.4 million, the real problem for schools is the loss in revenue, according to Haley. Last year, the schools used $498,055 in surplus for the budget, leaving no surplus for this year for kindergarten through grade 12. School officials told councilors last year that this was coming, and the schools would be behind right out of the gate, according to Haley.

“We’ve got a $500,000 hole,” he said.

While Haley is asking for $674,172 more to fund the budget on the expenditure side, the schools are losing $400,574 in revenues, so the total amount needed in local tax revenues to cover the budget is $1.07 million.

Haley said more cuts to the proposed budget would mean cutting teachers. If he were to try to cut $1 million from the budget, for instance, he would use the figure of $58,000 for a “least senior teacher.”

“For every two (teachers) I cut, I could get $116,000,” he said. “I have to cut 20 teachers to get to $1 million.”

This is by far the worst budget year Haley has ever encountered, he said.

“In my personal opinion, the school is at a breaking point. We have been doing more with less for a number of years now, and we can’t do more with less anymore. We just can’t do it. We’re going to see substantial changes — not to the good — in what schools can offer.”

Haley noted that Gov. Paul LePage recommends taking away part of the funding generated for 4-year-olds. Money in the Waterville schools budget to fund Educare, an early childhood education program for children through age 4, is not taxpayer money — it is money that comes to the state for the 4-year-olds’ program, Haley said.

“Educare gets reimbursement, but it has to come through a school,” Haley said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

filed under: