Auburn taxpayers grill superintendent

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Auburn School Superintendent Katy Grondin talks about a proposed new high school at a United New Auburn Association taxpayers meeting at Rolly's Diner in Auburn on Tuesday.

AUBURN — School Superintendent Katy Grondin knows people are anxious about the costs of building a new high school.

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Auburn School Superintendent Katy Grondin passes out information before talking about a proposed new high school at a United New Auburn Association taxpayers meeting at Rolly's Diner in Auburn on Tuesday.

“We know this is a stretch for the community. We hear you,” Grondin said Tuesday at a meeting with taxpayers at Rolly's Diner.

The numbers being thrown around — $50 million for a major renovation, $62 million for a new school funded by local taxpayers — are far from firm, Grondin said. The School Department is in the beginning stages.

“It's a start. The big toe is in the pool,” Grondin said.

It would probably be three to five years before a new school is built, she said in response to a question.

Explaining why a new school is needed, Grondin went through a list of deficiencies at Edward Little, including unhealthy air from moisture and mold, not enough space for programming, not enough parking spaces or athletic fields, an inadequate cafeteria, a building with poor if any insulation.

But her words did little to alleviate fears as some put the superintendent on the hot seat.

Several people criticized the School Department for talking about building a new school without starting with a budget, or knowing how much it would cost.

Priscilla Miller said she may want to build a $750,000 house, but that's a price she could not afford.

“You get your financing down first, then you go from there,” Miller said. A committee spending time planning a new school without a budget is why people are worried they'll be steamrolled.

“You're going to shove this down their throat just like you did with the iPads,” Miller said. “The iPads were, boom, they're here!” Miller said as she slammed the table with her hand. “Taxpayers don't get any chance to say anything.”

Statewide, five schools are ahead of Edward Little High School on the state funding list, Miller said. “They're managing to educate kids.”

Miller complained that the building hasn't been cared for, that she wouldn't use a bathroom because “they're so filthy.”

Dee Chapman said she too was bothered by the lack of maintenance. Too many janitors have been laid off. That's why buildings “are in disarray,” Chapman said.

Grondin acknowledged the School Department is behind in maintenance, saying that $2.2 million should be spent each year, but many years, half that amount is spent, and some years, none.

“We only have five maintenance workers for nine buildings. It's a struggle,” Grondin said. Catching up will take an enormous amount of money, she said.

Several in the audience offered suggestions on how to get a new or improved school.

One man suggested the School Department do what the Auburn Public Library did to get a major addition and renovation. The city gave the library some money and the library privately raised the rest.

A lot of people would donate, he said.

Miller suggested “getting the parents cranked up and write to the governor and tell him we need some help.”

One woman suggested leaving donation jars for a better high school on the counters of local businesses.

Edward Little High School senior Amanda Williams said improvement should happen but slowly, starting with the bathrooms and old carpeting. New athletic fields aren't necessary, she said. “We have plenty of them.”

Property taxpayers shouldn't pay for all of the work, Williams said. The community and students could help with fundraising and community service. Instead of sitting in detention, perhaps students could do things like sweeping.

Alfreda Fournier, a member of the New High School Steering Committee, said a better high school could be built in stages. Some parts should be new, other parts renovated, but the public needs full accountability.

“There's no question people want something decent at the high school,” she said.

The committee meets Thursday nights at Auburn Hall, Grondin said, inviting more public participation.

What do you think of this story?

Login to post comments

In order to make comments, you must create a subscription.

In order to comment on SunJournal.com, you must hold a valid subscription allowing access to this website. You must use your real name and include the town in which you live in your SunJournal.com profile. To subscribe or link your existing subscription click here.

Login or create an account here.

Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.

Advertisement

Comments

Jeff Johnson's picture

How did laptops get brought

How did laptops get brought into this? The laptops were from a federal grant, and had nothing to do with taxpayers... how did it get shoved down the taxpayer's throats?

That being said, if you've stepped into EL in the past 10 years, you know that it needs to be replaced.

Jeff Johnson's picture

How did laptops get brought

How did laptops get brought into this? The laptops were from a federal grant, and had nothing to do with taxpayers... how did it get shoved down the taxpayer's throats?

That being said, if you've stepped into EL in the past 10 years, you know that it needs to be replaced.

Jason Theriault's picture

What do you expect...

Every single one of them looks to be fixed income retirees. Of course they want it to be paid for by any other means than property taxes. I wonder how they are going to feel when property taxes shoot up because the city has to compensate for the metric ton of new expenses LePage wants to dump on the local municipalities.

 's picture

Thanks for staying on topic

You could have come to the meeting last evening and put in your two cents. But I guess it's easier to jump on this medium and thump your chest like you know what you're talking about, isn't it? Get off your duff, come to a meeting and get in the conversation.

There were about 30 people there last night. If you had come, you would have had ample time to share your opinion and perhaps see some counter opinions. Heck, you may have actually learned something firsthand instead of relying on the Sun Journal to feed you all your opinions.

Further, if you'd read the article you would know that Amanda Williams, who is quoted in the article, is a high school senior at EL. Surely she is not a "fixed income retiree".

Jason Theriault's picture

Cool your jets

First off, there was 30 people there? If I went, I would have had to stand on the ramp outside the door.

And good, you had an EL student there.

Bottom line, the gist of the meeting seems to have been "any way other than property taxes."

 's picture

Again with the ignorance

Rolly's Diner has a capacity of 88 diners according to the fire marshall; you could have sat at a table like everyone else. You would have been welcome and are welcome to attend any United New Auburn Association meetings. THere is usually a city official or two in attendance.

I did not have an EL student there. She came of her own will. No one forced her to come or to speak. She wanted to be there and share her thoughts. Too bad you didn't come to share your thoughts.

Bottom line is you don't know the bottom line.

Advertisement

Stay informed — Get the news delivered for free in your inbox.

I'm interested in ...