WATERVILLE — The Waterville Board of Education got a look Monday night at a $25.8 million preliminary budget for the 2020-21 school year, a figure that is expected to change as the board discusses the proposed spending plan over the next several weeks.

The proposal represents a 3.58%  increase, or $890,478, over the current $24.9 budget, with much of the increase reflected in salary increases, according to Superintendent Eric Haley.

“This is the last year of a three-year contract we had with teachers,” Haley said prior to the board meeting.

Haley said the schools were able to realize a savings in health insurance costs. The schools had budgeted for a 10% increase but were notified by Anthem that the highest a school district would pay is a 6% increase. Waterville’s increase is 2.759%, so the schools would save $266,880, according to Haley.

The board meeting Monday night was held at Waterville Junior High School, with fewer than 10 people, including Haley, present. The meeting was live-streamed through the school’s website. Some board members, school officials and residents joined the meeting from home.

The board voted 5-2 to add a driver’s education position for the high school into the budget, and 6-1 to add two half-time social worker positions. The costs for those positions are not reflected in the proposed $25.8 million figure, according to Haley.

He recommended the board approve the driver’s education instructor, saying more than half the students who have registered for classes next year subscribed to the course, and he has never seen one course draw that much attention.

Haley said he was thrilled and the course “absolutely fills a need” and gives students an opportunity to use the skills they learn to get jobs and be able to drive to them.

Board member Julian Payne, however, said he opposed the move. The cost of buying a car for driver’s education is not yet known, he said, and putting a student alone in a vehicle with a teacher creates liability. Also, Payne said he did not think taxpayer dollars should be spent for something “not related to the business of traditional education.”

But board member Greg Bazakas said while Payne had a good point that the total cost is not yet known, he supported the position.

“I feel that it levels the playing field for our students,” Bazakas said, “and I echo all of Eric’s reasons.”

Payne and board member Marianne Bernier voted against the request. Bernier was the lone dissenter in approving the half-time social worker positions.

Meanwhile, the board voted 7-0 to cancel April vacation, scheduled for April 20 to 24, and one workshop day to allow the school year to end five days early. Haley said he surveyed volunteers, bus drivers and others, and more than 97% were in favor of the move.

Haley said earlier in the day a half-time additional social worker was for Waterville Junior High School and an additional half-time social worker was for special education.

He also said the proposed $890,478 increase to the budget, before adding in the driver’s education instructor position and two half-time social worker positions, reflected a request for an additional $16,386 in new taxes.

“The vast majority of that ($890,478) increase has been covered by us raising revenues wherever we could,” Haley told the board.

On Thursday, Haley met with Mayor Nick Isgro, City Manager Michael Roy and Council Chairman Erik Thomas, D-Ward 7, to update them on where the schools are with the budget.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.