AUGUSTA — The school board has delayed its vote on a proposed $38 million spending plan for the city’s schools after members said they weren’t sure what they were voting on.

The Augusta Board of Education planned to vote Wednesday on the warrant articles to approve the $38.1 million proposed budget. But after a speech by board member Kati McCormick, it was clear board members all had different ideas of what was included in the final budget.

The budget, before additions requested by the Augusta School Department, clocked in at $36,932,039 — a $1,170,421 increase from last year. After the additions the budget proposal was about $38 million, dependent on new calculations around the board’s decisions.

At Tuesday night’s Augusta City Council meeting, McCormick said officials presented a preliminary draft of the school budget to the council that included the addition of 11 positions. McCormick said the school board had in fact decided to add seven permanent substitute teacher positions but remove four intervention positions.

“Think of this as an opportunity from the ‘budget gods’ to take more time with this to get it absolutely right,” McCormick said. “I will restate that I support educators and value those in the Augusta School Department, but I don’t support this (budget) process it feels rushed, messy and inaccurate.” 

McCormick was outspoken on last year’s budget and called for a forensic audit after the long-time business manager, Kathy Casparius, resigned. Later in last year’s budget process, school department administrators had to close an $800,000 budget shortfall. 


Most of the positions being debated in the current budget process are positions that were funded by COVID-19 relief funds. Teachers and school administrators say they still need the staff to meet student needs after the pandemic.  

Among budget reductions, the board cut a half-time art teacher, at $40,418; four intervention education technicians, at $115,845; and furniture for the schools at $33,514.  

The board also added to the budget seven permanent substitute teachers at $290,000; the Cony High School alternative to suspension program at $30,000; Cony High School Summer School program at $14,550; and $250,000 for capital improvement projects.

Administration officials said they thought the board voted to include the four intervention ed techs in the budget — reflected in Wednesday’s warrant article — but board members said they voted to remove the positions to save money.

When asked for the most recent updated budget after this week’s meeting, School Department staff said they were working on the warrant articles for the Board of Education meeting scheduled for Wednesday, March 27.

McCormick said it was difficult to tell what positions were included in the final budget totals. Board members would ask Business Manager Karla Miller to re-calculate the budget, based on adding positions or taking away a program, and it was unclear what the calculations included, McCormick said.


“There’s a communication breakdown when the board says, ‘Let’s see the number with all (items) added,’ or ‘What the numbers are with everything (added),’ but we have to be more clear for Karla’s (Miller) sake and even Jim (Anastasio) said there was confusion at the administrative level with the status quo budget,” McCormick said.

Kevin Lamoreau agreed with McCormick and expressed doubts he had about the budget.

“I feel at this point, I do have a little bit of doubt,” Lamoreau said before he sought clarification on what exactly was added into the budget.

The Augusta School Department creates a “status quo” budget with necessary funding to ensure operations of the six Augusta schools. Then the School Department gives the Board of Education a list of additions and deletions requested by administrators. 

The Augusta City Council could tell the board to cut a certain amount of money, depending on municipal finances. Two years ago, the council told the school department to cut $1 million from the budget.

Administrators said the top addition they need are the permanent substitute teachers. On a daily basis there could be as many as 30 teachers out on average across the district, administrators said.

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