Auburn School Committee trims budget proposal

AUBURN — After Auburn voters rejected a school budget on June 11, the Auburn School Committee approved a smaller budget Wednesday night, cutting items like maintenance and rejecting the creation of new positions.

The second school budget proposal is $37.67 million, a 4.9 percent increase from 2012-13. The budget defeated by voters on June 11 was $38.3 million, a 6.9 percent increase from 2012-13.

The new budget doesn't move the school department forward, according to Superintendent Katy Grondin. “We're running on the bare minimum. People are working really hard to use the resources to the best of our ability to make sure the students” get the education they need, she said.

The proposed budget does not include as dramatic changes to students that committee members considered on June 12. The East Auburn Community School will not be closed, and students will not be forced into pay-to-play sports or participation in other activities.

Still in this second budget is expanding the iPad tablet computer program. Second-graders will get iPads this fall at a cost of $109,000. Kindergarten and first-grade students already have iPads, and this fall, Grades 7-12 will receive iPads instead of more costly laptop computers. Also in the budget is the position of the popular land lab teacher, Jim Chandler.

Maintenance is taking a $200,000 hit, which will leave $100,000 in the budget for maintaining six elementary, one middle, one alternative and one high school.

The school department has been criticized for not doing enough to take care of schools.

“I totally understand that,”  Superintendent Katy Grondin said. But putting off maintenance will help preserve programs for students, she and committee chairman Tom Kendall said Thursday.

Ward 5 School Committee member Larry Pelletier said the budget “makes sense for the spot we're in. I was not in favor of making any of the cuts. Neither is a majority of the committee.” But, he said, “the people spoke.”

The new budget proposal is the direction the public and the Auburn City Council  gave the school department, Kendall said. "I don't think we're supportive of the fact we're not improving our position with Essential Programs and Services. It's setting us back a little."

The newest spending plan means Auburn schools are $2.2 million under Essential Programs and Services, the state formula that shows the minimum towns should spend on local education.

“We're not creating a bigger gap, but we're not filling in the gap,” Grondin said. “Next year, we'll have to (make up) 33 percent of the gap,” she said, referring to a new state law that says in three years, municipalities not spending the minimum under EPS will have to spend more or lose state education dollars.

Auburn's new list of spending reduction includes no layoffs. People in two jobs that are being cut, an elementary school librarian and a middle school secretary, have found other jobs in the school department.

Proposed spending which will now not happen included the addition of an elementary school nurse, two instructional coaches and a cultural broker for students from immigrant families; some course reimbursement to teachers; the replacement of the library, a school bus and textbooks; and the creation of shirts for kindergarten students, printed with their high school graduation year to promote aspiration. Travel will be cut, and there will also be a salary freeze for seven non-union administrators. That includes Grondin, whose annual $115,000 salary will be frozen.

Built into this new budget plan is $300,000 in casino revenue that Auburn is expected to receive from the state. The school department will use $170,000 of that amount to shift the costs of school police officers from the city budget to the school budget, which will slightly increase EPS spending with existing spending.

The remaining $129,000 difference will be used to reduce the burden on taxpayers, Grondin said, which will help reduce the mill rate for education by 35 cents.

“The school committee collaborated with the city to shift costs, reduced the mill rate, so we're trying to respond” to voters, Grondin said. “The community is not ready to make a larger commitment.”

As planned, the second school budget will be sent to the Auburn City Council and then to voters at a July 23 referendum.

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Mike Lachance's picture

Research in S.Korea needs to

Research in S.Korea needs to be considered. South Korea is one of the most "digitally connected" nation in the world:

"Over-use of smartphones and game devices hampers the balanced development of the brain," Byun Gi-won, a doctor at the Balance Brain Centre in Seoul, told the JoongAng Daily newspaper.

"Heavy users are likely to develop the left side of their brains, leaving the right side untapped or underdeveloped," he said.

The right side of the brain is linked with concentration and its failure to develop will affect attention and memory span, which could in as many as 15 per cent of cases lead to the early onset of dementia.

Sufferers are also reported to suffer emotional underdevelopment, with children more at risk than adults because their brains are still growing.

The situation appears to be worsening, doctors report, with the percentage of people aged between 10 and 19 who use their smartphones for more than seven hours every day leaping to 18.4 per cent, an increase of seven per cent from last year.

More than 67 per cent of South Koreans have a smartphone, the highest in the world, with that figure standing at more than 64 per cent in teenagers, up from 21.4 per cent in 2011, according to the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning.

Dr Manfred Spitzer, a German neuroscientist, published a book titled "Digital Dementia" in 2012 that warned parents and teachers of the dangers of allowing children to spend too much time on a laptop, mobile phone or other electronic devices.

Dr Spitzer warned that the deficits in brain development are irreversible and called for digital media to be banned from German classrooms before children become "addicted."

Sal Rosenberg's picture

No lessons learned

Cut the maintenance budget again? Haven't we learned anything from ELHS? They will continue to under fund and defer maintenance until they get to the point that new facilities are needed, due to air quality, safety issues, etc. So rather than provide a safe, sanitary, and decent environment for education, they will fund far too many administrators exorbitant salaries and purchase iPads. Glad to see their priorities are in order.

Jason Theriault's picture


Due to EPS, they will be able to make that up next year, cause they are going to get a big bump.

Well, or the schools will become hell holes due to losing state funding, and we will have the worse schools in the state, if not the nation. Or the city council will cut funding to everything else to fill in the EPS gap. Bye bye plowing and say hello to potholes

Mike Lachance's picture

An information vacuum....

How about some NUMBERS???
Far be it for anyone to pry those damned iPads from their hands for anything. What is that?, a good half a million bucks right there?

Drop the luxury items you "want" and get your house in order AUBURN SCHOOL COMMITTEE. When you have an excess budget a few years from now, (assuming you actually choose to make financially responsible choices today) THEN ask for the teaching toys and trendy gadgets.

Jason Theriault's picture

Go to the website.

First off, the iPads are not trendy teach toys, and that shows you don't have a clue what your talking about. I mean, I was skeptical when I first hear about iPads in schools, but I read the research they were doing and the results.

Something you obviously haven't done.

Nope, you buy into the hysteria. You listen to people who say they are wasting your money without even bothering to find out the truth.

Hell, your post proves that: You want someone to sum the numbers up for you.
You want numbers - here ya go:

But they would require reading, so you'll probably stick to being angry at those darn kids wasting your money.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Perhaps the students can hold

Perhaps the students can hold the iPad over their head to protected them form the leaky roof.


Mike Lachance's picture

Hysteria much?

In between your slew of insults, we see the method. Standard. Expected. When confronted with a differing opinion, start slinging mud. Well, Mr. Mud, Look at the Bangor School district's numbers compared to Auburn. Look at the performance and $$ spent per student when the day is done. iPads are not going to do a thing for Auburns lackluster performance, nor will spending huge sums of money in an ever-increasing budget balloon with zero history of positive return on the dollars.

Cry all you want about how "out of touch" anyone is who doesn't live as a slave to todays latest fashion accessory disguised as a computer (Newsflash Professor; 90% of the workforce in this nation use PC's to get the work done.. not a Mac, not an iPad... while that may change in 10 years, today is today and in 10 years there will be something far more advanced and cutting edge than the iPad... guaranteed)...

It's amazing how wadded up the edu-centric money-tree giraffes become when reality steps into the room.

As far as the numbers go, go to the statewide performance indexes and rank those numbers with expenditures-per student. Auburns performance is lackluster. Portland's is hideously anemic. Bangor's is exemplary.

Here's a Kleenex, go dry your eye, redface.

Jason Theriault's picture

Just stop.

First off, as for the business comments: Let me fill you in on some facts. I have a Master's in information technology, and have been in the IT industry for over 15 years. Very few works require a pc. I do, but only because I program and deal with large datasets that would strain anything but a hefty desktop and server. My boss uses an iPad. The device has become less and less important, as with Google's web based apps, less and less software is linked to a single operating system.

Now, as for the iPads effectiveness:

Here is the Auburn's school's website for the program. If you really interested in the results and how they boost literacy score, go read up. You'll be impressed. But I doubt you will, you're bias wont let you admit you don't know what your talking about.

Example of how you don't know what your talking about:
"As far as the numbers go, go to the statewide performance indexes and rank those numbers with expenditures-per student. Auburns performance is lackluster. Portland's is hideously anemic. Bangor's is exemplary."

You realize that Bangor spends $1,600 MORE per pupil than Auburn. The state Average is $9,727. Bangor Spends $9,569.

Auburn spends $7,908

So don't talk to me about luxuries.The only reason we don't have the worst schools in the state is that they have taken innovative steps like the iPads.

But, I can't wait until next year. Because you're flipping out about this? EPS is going to force Auburn to enact a massive tax hike, or cut services like plowing, police, fire or roads maintenance.

Mike Lachance's picture

A fool's paradise.

You might not want to compare resumes... just sayin'...

Wake up call: It doesn't take an iPad to boost literacy.

Heads up.
According to the statewide datasets, your Auburn figure is inaccurate. Auburn spends close to what Bangor spends per student when comparing apples to apples.

Heads Down.
You so confidently state:
"So don't talk to me about luxuries.The only reason we don't have the worst schools in the state is that they have taken innovative steps like the iPads. "

The facts are: Portland spends over $13000+ per student AND they have iPADS.. and their student performance is at or near the bottom of the list statewide.

For someone so into stroking his own ego and insulting everyone else you seem to have missed the obvious.

Jason Theriault's picture

I only brought it up because

I only brought it up because as someone who works in information tech, I see them used day in and day out, and they are only toys if you use them as such.
Pilots use them to replace manuals, maps and navigation software.
Doctors use them treating patients.

If you see them as toys, thats your problem.

As for my figures, how are they inaccurate?
Here a link to my data, from the Maine Department of Education:

Where do you get your figures, btw? A fortune teller? Cracker jack box? My data shows Portland at $10,789.28 per pupil. And again, my data is from the Maine Department of Education.

And I don't go on the internet to stroke my ego, thats what mirrors are for.

Mike Lachance's picture

I'll say it again. The

I'll say it again. The majority of the working world do not use iPads. As much as that fact pains you, and regardless of whether you use one or not, the facts are what they are. The PC is what makes the world happen. Have you been to your Dr's office or any Dept at CMMC or MMC or SMMC, or any hospital? I see *zero* ipads. Get a car part at VIP? Not an iPad to be found. Check out at JC Penney? not through an iPad. How about getting that Insurance estimate or auto repair quote... woops, a PC. The accounting depts at nearly every business in Central Maine.... Not on iPads. 90% of the viewers on this and most every website? not on iPads.

This can and will change over time and trends say it is definitely a moving target, but Macs and iPads are still the exception, not the rule. In 10 years an iPad will be unrecognizable and obsolete.

For a BROKE school dept to spend huge sums on them for the kids who do NOT need them to learn the basics is irresponsible and poorly timed. You can argue against that position all day long but you're misguided at best.

My data source:

Even taking your $11000 figure for Portland into the argument proves nothing different than the $13000 numbers. Theya re using iPads and spending WAY more than Auburn... the results are atrociously bad.

Mike Lachance's picture

PS: Your dataset is tweaked...

...."except major capital outlay, debt service, and transportation expenditures. Since this report is based only on resident pupils, any tuition receipts have been deducted from the cost data." ....

Your numbers reflect these calculated (and statistically convenient) adjustments lower expenditures appreciably. Since I don't believe in playing the shell game, Total School Budget / spent vs students is what I go by.

Jason Theriault's picture

First off...

Thank you for the data source. Data is my bread and butter, and I always like rawer data.

Now, back to iPads, and then I'll comment on the data.

First off - Yes, I see Dr's using iPads at CMMC. Also, the company I work ( a data services company working with medical record) has seen a major push or iPad software. My wife ophthalmology office, with the push into electronic record for Medicare/Medicaid has been rolling out iPads.

Now, obviously, they don't work for retail point of sale well because people still use cash, and if you need a register for the cash, it's silly to try and work an iPad into that. However, their intuitive interface and ability to expand upon the traditional textbook, along with their ability to track performance makes them fantastic teaching tools.

Now, as for the data, using your source, Auburn is still WELL below Bangor($1,500).
The only areas that Auburn beat Bangor is on Special education(bout $200 per student) and Student & Staff support($50 per student). Bangor pays more per pupil for Regular Instruction, Career and Technical Education(CTE),Other Instruction, System Admin, School Admin, Transp & Buses, Facilities Maintenance, Debt Service, All Other

So you want to say Bangor is best, then I'll agree, and we need to emulate the best.

BTW - I will try and be less hostile. I usually am pretty level headed, but I think the MOST important thing Government is tasked with doing is education. More than police, fire, military, everything. So when I think I see someone trying to skimp out without reading the facts, I get fired up.
So I apologize if I has come off like a jerk. I can't promise that I wont get fired up again, but this is the one thing I will fight to the end if need be.

Mike Lachance's picture

Good post Jason.

Good post Jason.

RONALD RIML's picture

But are iPads as important as Sports?????



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