AUGUSTA – By order of the City Council, school officials have lopped off $1 million from the proposed education budget ahead of Tuesday’s vote on the $34.59 million spending plan. 

Top expenses trimmed include $175,000 for photocopiers; $138,000 for purchased services; $119,000 for salary adjustments due to retirements or resignations; $110,000 for a technology position; and $212,000 in health insurance. Tens of thousands of dollars were also cut for expenses such as books and instructional/noninstructional supplies, legal fees, professional development and teacher tuition. 

The original $35.59 million school budget contained slightly higher expenses but at no increase to taxpayers when presented to the City Council last month by Augusta Board of Education Chair Amanda Olson and Superintendent James Anastasio. That’s because school officials had tapped into the fund balance, using money held in reserves to balance the budget. 

But the proposed Augusta City Budget will be presented with a 4.7% increase and will be the first time taxes have been raised in the city in five years, prompting councilors to ask for school budget cuts. The Board of Education finalized the $1 million in further reductions on May 31, even as some school officials openly bristled at the ask from the City Council. 

An itemized list of the $1 million in cuts was not publicly available until the Kennebec Journal requested the listing this week, ultimately receiving the information Friday from Olson after the school district would not supply it.

Olson said she was surprised when councilors asked for the $1 million in cuts when the budget was presented to them last month, “especially considering there was a lot of talk about not wanting to make cuts that impact children in our city, and to end here was disappointing.”


The City Council cannot tell the Board of Education where to make the cuts, but they can tell the board they need to cut their budget in any amount of money, in order for it to be approved by the city. 

“The approach they were taking (City Council) was that the school budget comprises almost half of the city budget, so they (Augusta Public Schools) should be a partner in the problem-solving process,” Olson said at a May 25 workshop.   

City councilors asked if the Board of Education’s budget could dip into more of its fund balance, but the district already used $2.5 million from those reserves in the original proposed budget to come up with no increase to taxpayers. “Their logic not to use their fund balance — but asked us to use ours — did not make sense to me,” Anastasio said. “We were asked to do what they wouldn’t do.” 

As for the cuts that were made, Anastasio went over possible areas that could see additional cuts but wanted to make sure the expense reductions did not have any direct impact on students. Some cuts came easier than others, particularly in areas that were already overbudgeted, like in health and dental insurance where an estimated amount is added to the budget until the actual amount is known. In health insurance, the district could cut $212,740 and in dental insurance, they cut $7,797. 

Administration cut $75,000 out of the Hussey Elementary building project, where the district saves money in its budget to go toward building a new school. Anastasio said the school is still on the Department of Education’s list to receive a new building, but it won’t be this year.  

Salaried positions of teachers who were retiring at the end of the year helped the district save money, too. With the teachers on the higher end of the scale leaving, the district cut $119,464. 


After the district made the larger cuts, more items had to be cut that weighed into the classroom instruction — books and instructional supplies were cut by $40,000 and Cony Middle School field trips were cut by $2,000.  

Photocopiers were a topic of discussion at a board meeting on whether the district would outright buy the machines, or lease to purchase them. The budget for the machines was cut by $175,000, leaving the district to use a bond through the city to get them. 

“It reached the point where I said to Jim (Anastasio) at 2 p.m. before the meeting, I can’t squeeze any more without cutting programs,” Kathy Casparius, director of business for Augusta Schools, said a week later at the May 31 Board of Education meeting to approve the cuts made. 

A technology position, designed by the board during the pandemic as the classroom shifted online, faced elimination as a new position because it had not yet been filled and a job description was not yet created. But the board fought to keep the $110,000 position and will rename the position at a future personnel meeting.

Also cut was homeless transportation, in the amount of $15,000, but Anastasio said it can be maintained through grants if the need is there, same with teacher tuition, in the amount of $25,000. Anastasio reiterated that the cuts made were based historically on what was spent in those areas, but that there should be enough budgeted for the next year.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday for voting on the school budget and other matters. Polling locations are based on residential addresses, with those who live in Ward 1 voting at the Buker Community Center, 22 Armory St.; Ward 2 at Augusta City Center, 16 Cony St.; those in Ward 3 at the Augusta Civic Center, 76 Community Drive; and those in Ward 4 at Cony High School, 60 Pierce Drive. 

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