WINSLOW — The School Board presented a draft budget Monday that is up over $1 million from the current fiscal year — and will likely be largely scaled back — to the Town Council at a joint meeting at the Town Office.

Superintendent Eric Haley presented the $15,795,186 budget to the council, noting that the sum is an increase of $1.265 million or 8.71 percent. With that increase, Haley said the school department would have to ask the town of Winslow for $768,802 of new local taxpayer money to support the budget. He said no one on the board was happy with that hefty number.

A week after a tense discussion between board members and councilors over the school renovation proposal, the council and board expressed interest in working together to cut down that number. However, as many of the representatives from both governing groups noted, the bulk of the increases come from areas in the budget that would be a challenge to alter.

Two of those bumps in the budget come from salary increases for teachers, education technicians and other personnel such as bus drivers and administrative aids, as well as a group insurance increase that could jump as high as 10 percent.

The teacher salary increase, which totals $407,727, reflects the outcome of contracts negotiated over the summer which granted some teachers raises ranging from $1,000 to $4,000, depending on seniority and expertise, over a 3-year period.

Haley said the board and administration knew in years past that this expense would be coming, but the issue was put off and now the time has arrived for the teachers to receive a competitive salary.

The ed techs received a 3 percent raise, and administrative staff and bus drivers received a 2 percent raise. Those contracts were negotiated at separate times.

Those salaries cannot be changed now that they’ve been approved.

The administration does not yet know what health insurance costs will be, but the state has capped the increase at 10 percent, which is the increase reflected in the drafted budget. If there is a 10 percent increase, the difference from the current fiscal year will be an increase of $389,105. However, Paula Pooler, the district’s finance director, said it could be less than that, but there is no way to know until the state comes out with an official number.

The budget as it is currently drafted also does not reflect any new personnel, for which Haley said he had about 15 requests from his staff. Money to pay Stephen Blatt, the architect employed by Winslow to design whichever school renovation proposal is eventually approved by the town, also is not reflected in the budget.

“I don’t want to overreact but that’s a pretty big number,” Councilor Ken Fletcher said of the draft budget. “I don’t know how many things that you’ll be able to alter to reduce that number.”

“The only way is to decrease personnel,” Haley said.

At a special school board meeting early Monday morning, board chairman Joel Selwood said a possibility to get the cost down would be to push some larger expenses to the next year, such as one of the two new buses the school system planned to purchase.

Board member John Ferry expressed concern over cutting personnel before the incoming superintendent of Winslow schools, Peter Thiboutot, who currently serves at the assistant superintendent of AOS 92, had time to get a feel for his office and the programming.

With the amount of work that needs to be done to get to a budget that the board and council can confidently send to taxpayers, Haley said he was not confident that a final budget would be ready by March 28, which is the date designated in the town charter for the school budget to be ready.

“We have a lot of work to do and we know it,” Haley said.

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg

filed under:

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.