AUGUSTA — After a weeklong delay, the Augusta Board of Education voted 6-2 on Wednesday to approve a proposed $38 million school budget that now heads to the City Council for its consideration.

The proposed budget represents a 6.7% increase to the current $35 million spending plan, and an 11.3% increase to what city taxpayers would be asked to pay to operate the six schools in the Augusta School Department.

Board member Kati McCormick delayed the budget’s approval last week to continue discussion after board members expressed confusion over what positions and programs were added in the proposal. A few board members thought four education interventionist positions were still in the budget last week (they were not), despite voting against funding for them.

McCormick and board member James Orr voted against the proposed budget. McCormick said she could not support the addition of $60,000 for an increased substitute teacher rate and $290,000 for seven permanent substitute teachers. The positions were originally created with one-time COVID-19 pandemic relief funding from the federal government.

“When they accepted the positions, they knew there was a caveat that the positions would go away when the (COVID-19 relief money) went away,” McCormick said. “I guess if we are using the word responsible, the more responsible way to fill the positions would be with the increase to the sub position.”

The budgeting process proved difficult this year for the Augusta Board of Education. Members debated funding for substitute teachers and the loss of COVID-19 relief funds, and had to contend with inflation’s effect on contracted salaries and school supplies.


The board, which is responsible for deciding what programs and positions to keep in the budget, opted to follow staff and administrative recommendations.

Board members have said they feel a responsibility to keep the school budget at a level the City Council will approve. The school assessment is one component of city residents’ property tax bill. The municipal and county portions of the budget have yet to be determined.

Ultimately, the permanent substitute teachers were kept in the proposed budget, as were the additions of the alternative to suspension program, Cony High School summer school and $250,000 for construction of an elementary school to replace Lillian P. Hussey School. Four education technician interventionists were removed from the budget, as were a part-time art teacher and new furniture for schools.

“I think it was a thoughtful budget,” Martha Witham, the board’s chair, said Thursday. “We are looking to keep improving education in Augusta. I think it reflects the needs of the school system.” 

The city would be responsible for raising $12.7 million for the proposed budget; $2.1 million for the portion of the budget that covers additional expenses the revenues do not include; and $139,547 for the School Department’s debt service, which is for the Cony High School construction, for a total of $15 million, an 11.3% increase to current spending. 

The School Department asked the city to raise $13,511,713 for the 2023-24 budget. 

To help offset the cost to taxpayers, the board has authorized using $3.5 million from the School Department’s fund balance, which is money carried over from previous budget years.

Last year, the board used $3.1 million in carry-over funds.

Witham, Superintendent Jim Anastasio and Assistant Superintendent Mike Tracy Jr. are expected to present the budget Tuesday to the City Council.

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