Auburn schools list how they’ll handle $219,000 cut

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AUBURN — The School Department must find $219,000 in savings to balance its budget by June 30, School Committee member Bonnie Hayes said Wednesday night.

The cuts are necessary to comply with the governor’s $12.6 million mid-year school aid curtailment.

The Budget Committee and administrators had come up with a list of cuts, Hayes said as the list was passed around.

“Nobody got a real hit,” Hayes said, explaining that the reductions didn’t cut any one account too severely.

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Topping the list was a $15,000 cut from teacher retirement stipends. When teachers retire, they get paid for up to 30 days of unused sick time, Business Manager Jude Cyr said. Auburn spends about $123,000 a year on the retirement stipends, Cyr said. So far fewer teachers are planning to retire this year, which means some money can be cut in that account, he said.

Another cut was $20,000 for course reimbursements. The district typically spends $240,000 a year to reimburse teachers for courses they take; so far, $72,000 had been spent, Hayes said. Teachers might be told they’ll have to wait a year to take a course, she said.

Other proposed cuts include $6,025 budgeted for substitute teachers; $1,191 for retreats and meals; $8,000 for occupational therapy; $13,200 to replace two photocopiers; $40,000 for software supplies, dues and fees; and $10,000 for homeless student transportation.

Additionally, each school building had to give up money for supplies and other needs.

Edward Little High School’s cut was the largest, $14,719. Franklin Alternative School’s cut came to $2,001 and Auburn Middle School’s was $8,582.

Elementary school cuts were: Park Avenue, $3,957; Walton, $4,470; East Auburn, $3,243; Sherwood Heights, $3,243; Washburn, $7,445; and Fairview, $5,632.

School Committee member William Horton objected to the size of the cut for Washburn. Given the small size of the school, he asked why it had such a large cut.

Superintendent Katy Grondin said it had to do with the status of each schools’ accounts, how much money was left and what the schools can do without.

The cuts were talked about with each school’s principal, Grondin said.

Horton still objected, calling the size of the cut “unreasonable.” He said he recently attended the Washburn PTO meeting, and he doubted Washburn could easily make do with that much less this year. He asked that the cut be reconsidered and more information be brought back to the committee to show how each school would fare with less money.

The cuts to schools are at the bottom of the list. Retirement stipends are at the top. That means, Cyr said, the cuts to schools were the lowest priority and could be taken off the list if money is found elsewhere.

“The list of cuts is a work in progress,” Cyr said, adding that it could be tweaked until June 30.

In other business, Grondin said a request for a lacrosse team for Auburn Middle School was rejected, adding that there are not many middle school lacrosse teams and that need was being met by the Recreation Department.

Also, grant writer Nancy Tremblay said Walton School is applying for a Community Development Block Grant to build a $17,755 playground called “Walton Discovery Spaces.”

The playground would feature creative elements including a riverbed of pebbles inspired by the nearby Androscoggin River, a balance beam, stepping stones and a maple tree transformed to a reading island. The playground would not be built if grant money is not secured, Tremblay said.

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

Grondin: Some schools doing lockdown drills

AUBURN — After School Committee member Tracey Levesque said she had heard “scary things” from young Fairview Elementary School students, Superintendent Katy Grondin said some schools are doing lockdown drills with students.

Levesque said she’d heard from young students that they did drills in school and came home saying, “We didn’t hide good enough; the shooter would see us,” or that they were told in school, “You need to be able to hide from the shooter.”

Those are “heartbreaking things for a 6-year-old to say,” Levesque said. “I hope there is language that shelters students.”

Grondin said that since the Newtown, Conn., shooting on Dec. 14, in which a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six adults, Auburn schools are reviewing and updating emergency plans.

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