School officials are no longer considering shutting down the Lillian Park Hussey School in Augusta in order to close a multimillion-dollar budget gap projected for next year. Officials have instead reduced the gap to $1.8 million by drawing on reserve funds. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA – The Augusta Board of Education has reduced a $5.9 million gap in its proposed budget for next school year without having to cut teacher positions or close the Lillian Park Hussey Elementary School.

Superintendent James Anastasio said officials will present a $36.6 million spending plan to the public on Wednesday. The proposed budget is $1.8 million higher than the current budget.

Administrators presented the first draft of the budget to the Board of Education in February with the need to close a nearly $6 million gap in budget increases before it would be in acceptable shape to send to the City Council.

Anastasio floated ideas around to close the gap, such as closing Hussey Elementary School and cutting teachers, however, through “utilizing the funds in different ways,” the district was able to minimize the cuts to a “presentable” $1.8 million increase.

The board has previously expressed its concerns about presenting the budget to the public and has invited the public to speak on the budget at its meeting on Wednesday and at the special board meeting on March 29. Both meetings start at 6 p.m.

Next year’s proposed budget currently sits at $36,611,643, an increase of more than 5%  from the current budget.  This includes a $350,000 increase in the amount that would need to be raised through taxation, though the impact on a typical taxpayer’s bill is not yet clear.


“We did that with budget reductions, increasing the use of fund balances, the creation of a reserve account, requesting the increase of taxation to $350,000 and although CATC (Capital Area Technical Center) and adult education were listed in our budget, they each had a slight increase and that showed up in the $5.9 million. All that work made it look like the $5.9 million disappeared, it didn’t, it was addressed in different ways,” Anastasio told the board on Wednesday.

Anastasio avoided the cuts by using $3.3 million in undesignated carryover funds from previous years and with the anticipated amount of carryover funds from the end of this fiscal year.

The $3.3 million includes $1.8 million taken from the school district’s undesignated fund, which has a total of $4.8 million. The other $1.5 million will be taken from the anticipated $2 million left over from the current fiscal year’s budget.

The amount of money used in undesignated funds cannot exceed 9% of the year’s proposed budget and 5% of the budget must remain in the fund by state law.

The remaining $500,000 left over from the $2 million was put into a reserve account to go directly toward renovating Gilbert Elementary School’s roof, which is a project that is necessary to get done for safety reasons and can now be taken off the budget.

Anastasio said from when the budget was created in January to when he presented the updated draft on Wednesday, the cost of natural gas went down from $2.29 per thermal unit to 69 cents per thermal unit. Additionally, the transportation contract and electricity contract are now locked in where before they were over-projected.


The price changes and locking in of contracts took around $650,000 out of the budget, Anastasio said.

Anastasio said he believes it is a “good budget” but that it was admittedly challenging to compile with the departure of Business Manager Kathy Casparius at the beginning of the budget process.

Anastasio said “seasoned business manager” Karla Miller filling in for Casparius is the reason why there is a budget.

“We learned from the past two months, or whatever it has been, we are building the budget from the start,” Anastasio said. “We didn’t have to build it from the start, but we had to figure out all of the things that were not in writing because they didn’t have to be, and I don’t want to say built from the start, but figuring it out, if it hadn’t been for Karla … I don’t think you’d have a budget in front of you right now.”

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