WINSLOW — The Town Council asked the School Department to cut another $150,000 from its budget at a workshop Tuesday evening after discussing options for filling a funding hole left by a sharp decrease in state revenue.

The proposed budget, after more than $200,000 in cuts were made, was $14.68 million, an increase of 2.1 percent over last year’s.

“These cuts were everything administration was willing to do before going to personnel,” Superintendent Eric Haley said.

To make up for a potential loss of state revenue, the council proposed that the schools cut $150,000, bringing the budget down to $14.53 million; the town raise taxes by $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value, giving the surplus to the school; and then $350,000 from the fund balance would be used for the balance.

Schools across Maine are struggling with potentially massive cuts to state revenue after Gov. Paul LePage recommended 48 changes to the funding formula for essential programs and services.

Alternative Organizational Structure 92, which includes schools in Winslow, Waterville and Vassalboro, is waiting for the Legislature to make changes to the budget and possibly include more funding for education.

As of now, the state budget would cut more than 6 percent of Winslow schools’ state revenue, or $423,494. Altogether, the school is losing $392,740 in revenue.

In the worst-case scenario, Winslow schools would need local taxpayers to fund $694,652 to make up for the loss in revenue and the increases in expenditures.

The council also can place an article on the budget ballot that would allow extra state revenue to go toward reducing the local share of taxes, among other things.

Councilor Jeffrey West said the council had to fill the hole left by the projected decrease in state revenue because the school can’t cut teachers.

Councilor Ken Fletcher said, “The fundamental problem is the state is not living up to the obligations that they have.”

Fletcher questioned the notion of the council pushing the responsibility onto property taxpayers.

Haley, however, said, “It’s not a blame game.”

He added, “Children are going to lose out on this.”

Haley said he attended the discussion to see what the council wanted the school to do so the school administration could go back to the drawing board and make the necessary cuts.

“I can tell you that cutting a teacher is not something I want to do,” he said. “I can tell you $400,000 would be decimating to the school budget. … I can tell you that I’m almost positive that we’re going to get more money from the state.”

At the end of the meeting, Fletcher said he didn’t think they had solved the problem, but had rather “put a Band-Aid on it.”

“I despise this crisis management style,” he said. “We’re going to have to decide — the town, the council, and the school — how much we can afford.”

Fletcher said he’d like to start an ongoing discussion with the school about how to handle the next few years, as the town probably will run into the same problem again.

The school administration is hosting an informational meeting about the budget for the public at 6 p.m. Thursday in the auditorium at Winslow Junior High School.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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