AUGUSTA — School administrators are proposing a just under $1.1 million increase to the school budget for next school year.

The initial budget proposal includes about $630,000 in new funding that Superintendent James Anastasio said is needed to address an increasing number of problems that are negatively impacting staff and students, including concerns about safety and the ability to provide a quality education as behavioral issues escalate and take time away from academics and more students come to school unprepared to learn.

The proposed staff additions include two new first grade teachers to help keep class sizes down at a cost of $136,000, a math “interventionist” to help younger students struggling in math ($45,000) and an additional half-time English teacher and social studies teacher at Cony High School ($68,000).

It also includes funding for four educational technicians, two of which were previously funded by federal dollars and two of which would be new positions to work with special education students ($155,000); a licensed clinical professional counselor to provide counseling to middle and high school students ($68,000); and full-time deans at two elementary schools($69,000).

Those additional staff spending recommendations are from a group of school administrators who met several times to put together a three-year budget plan, which was discussed in a school board workshop Monday. Anastasio said, in a memo to board members, the budget additions are meant to address mounting concerns about larger societal changes also showing up in schools.

“The team truly believes that the quality of education provided by the (Augusta School Department) is in jeopardy and the safety of students and educators, especially during the school day, are at greater risk than ever before,” Anastasio said in the memo. “Educators at all levels… are working harder and longer than previously and are experiencing greater levels of stress and in some cases decreasing levels of success. The social and emotional needs of students combined with the increasing lack of civility in society are eroding the foundation on which effective and efficient education is structured.

“Your students, teachers, staff and administrators need you to recognize the dilemma that exists. They are asking for your understanding, support and advocacy for the resources in the proposed budget to help alleviate the stressors and to assist in meeting student needs.”

The property tax implications of the proposed $31.6 million budget aren’t yet known, other than that the budget expenses are proposed to go up by nearly $1.1 million over the current year’s budget.

Augusta won’t know how much state funding for education it is likely to get until new Gov. Janet Mills proposes a state budget and thus won’t know how much money will be required from local property taxpayers to fund local schools.

Anastasio said he anticipates potentially having state revenue for education numbers by the next planned school budget discussion in Augusta, Feb. 20.

The budget includes an additional $72,000 for substitute teachers required, Anastasio said, in part due to the increase in the minimum wage.

Anastasio said the number of teachers injured by students is increasing, use of sick time is on the rise, and the mental health of educators is at risk. He said last school year Augusta paid for 18,000 hours, or 2,571 days, of substitute teacher time at a cost of about $225,000. He said if the school system were able to hire subs for all absent employees, those numbers would likely double.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]
Twitter: @kedwardskj

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