WATERVILLE — After cutting a proposed wellness teacher position for Waterville Senior High School and its alternative school, the district’s board of education has finalized a $24.9 million budget for the upcoming year.

The board on Monday night took its second vote on the $24,901,528 spending plan, voting 6-1, with Maryanne Bernier, of Ward 4, the lone dissenter. The Waterville City Council already approved the figure June 9, along with the municipal budget of $17.8 million, for a combined total of $42.7 million.

With this year’s budget process now squared away, Waterville residents are looking at a new tax rate of $25.76 per $1,000 worth of valuation. This is a 49-cent increase from the 2018-19 rate of $25.27 per $1,000 of valuation.

It is unclear why Bernier voted against the budget, which she also opposed at the first reading. Bernier did not respond to an email Tuesday seeking comment. The Waterville School Board website does not post officials’ phone numbers.

Eric Haley

“She didn’t voice any opposition,” Superintendent Eric Haley said Tuesday. “One board member asked her at the first vote: What is it in this budget that we could talk about to make you vote in favor of it? She said, ‘There isn’t anything that could change my mind.'”

The school budget is up about $1 million from last year’s total, but down $62,700 from the first proposal that hit city councilors’ desks on July 2.

When the City Council took its first vote on the budget at that time, officials moved 4-3 to cut $56,500 each from the municipal and school budgets. Haley said the school board was able to trim more than what was requested by the council by replacing the wellness teacher position with a contract with Kennebec Behavioral Health. The Waterville Board of Education unanimously approved this change July 8.

Now, the high school, Waterville Junior High, Albert S. Hall School and George J. Mitchell School will receive $1,550 each to help finance Kennebec Behavioral Health’s services for children with social-emotional needs.

Haley said it made the most sense to cut the wellness teacher primarily because it was a new position that had not been filled yet. The person would have led new courses in the high school’s and alternative school’s wellness program, which generated less demand than administrators expected.

“We didn’t get the sign-up that we thought we were going to get,” Haley said. “We thought (the new courses) would draw a lot of students, and we got some new students, but not to the extent that we thought. So (by eliminating this position), we wouldn’t have to let someone go who was already employed by the district.”

Haley attributed the $1 million overall increase from last year to rises in the contracted salaries. Haley also noted the school system will receive more state funding this year, at a total of $15.3 million, compared to the $14.7 million it received for 2018-19.

 


Comments are not available on this story.

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.