Auburn passes $37M school budget

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Election clerks Gerald and Claudette Martel hand ballots to residents lined up at Auburn Hall on Tuesday. "Turnout has been steady," warden Connie Bilodeau said.  

AUBURN — It took three votes, but voters passed a school budget Tuesday by a 2-1 ratio.

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Election clerk Norm Bilodeau hands siblings, from left, Lyra, Isaac and Addison Raymond "I Voted Today" stickers after their mother, Sarah, voted on the Auburn school budget at Auburn Hall on Tuesday.

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

A handmade sign in the Mechanics Row parking garage encourages Auburn residents to vote on the school budget on Tuesday. 

A sign points voters to Auburn Hall on Tuesday. For the third time this year, residents cast ballots on the school budget.

Early, unofficial returns showed the vote was 1,049 to 545, City Clerk Susan Clements-Dallaire said.

The $37.12 million spending plan is $1.2 million more than last year, but because Auburn is receiving more state money for education, it represents no increase in property taxes for education.

Auburn Superintendent Katy Grondin said Tuesday night that this year "has been a difficult budget season. Although the budget has been approved, we will have to endure the impact of $1.3 million reduction from the original proposed budget."

Grondin added that now is a time "to move forward and to open the doors for the first day of school" on Aug. 28. That is, she said, the ultimate goal, "to provide the best possible education for all of our students."

Former City Councilor Ron Potvin, who has advocated for lower spending and is running for the School Committee, said the budget season has been an education for the city of Auburn.

"Taxpayers have learned their vote does count. The school committee has learned not to proposed an inflated budget for no reason." He complained the school department has tried "to get more than they need," that recent cuts in the budget approved Tuesday could have been made months ago. School officials "now know it's not just a bunch of cranky city councilors, that the public will be keeping tabs."

The budget will have to be increased next year to confirm to a state law that says muncipalities have to spend minimal amounts for education under the so-called Essential Programs and Services formula or lose state eduation money. But the budget should not be higher than necessary, he said.

Comments from people who voted Tuesday hinted that more were voting yes than the last two elections when higher school budgets were rejected.

"I voted yes," Roger Aube said. "As long as they're not raising my taxes, I'm fine with it. I voted no both times before."

After voting no twice this year, Bill Wing said he voted yes Tuesday. Ditto for Jeanne and Ronaldo Morneault.

"I think they made a good effort,” she said. “It's a reasonable budget they're proposing.

Her husband voted yes this time because if he voted no, “they probably would have thought I wanted more money spent,” he said. Though he voted yes, “definitely the budget is still too high.”

Ruth Estes, Sissy Ventrone and Angela Jalbert each said they voted yes. “If we don't support education how is society going to progress?” Ventrone asked.

Jalbert said she voted yes for the third time this year. “I have two kids in the system," she

The budget rejected on July 23 was $37.6 million; the one rejected June 11 was $38.3 million. Since June, the School Committee cut $1.3 million. Still in the budget are iPads for students, the Auburn Land Lab position and most programs that directly impact students.

Among the spending cuts are building maintenance, some positions, privatizing busing to Northeast Charter, and $500,000 from salaries that may have been used for teacher raises during current negotiations.

That means the School Department will have less money to negotiate with “unless we find it somewhere,” Grondin said.

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Comments

Mike Lachance's picture

Just out of curiosity, since

Just out of curiosity, since the iPads weren't cut, but jobs and maintenance were... how many school budget $ are being allotted to those golden idol ipads? or is that a secret?

 's picture

There were MORE cuts the Could of been Made

1 thing I would of cut out.. explain to me WHY Kindergartner's NEED IPADS????
they need to READ & lean their ABC's IPAD'S are NOT Necessary for 5& 6 y.o. Kids

Jason Theriault's picture

It's called Google.

https://www.google.com/search?q=auburn+kindergarten+ipad+study

Summary: Studies show improvement in test scores when using iPads.

First off, my son was in kindergarten last year, and I got to see the iPad program in action. They don't take them home. They don't use them all the time, from what I gathered, it was less than hour a day.

The iPads are loaded with games that build basic skills that they would cover in class(math, spelling, reading, ect..) . Results are tracked, much like the teacher collecting homework. However, all of this is done automatically, and It makes it easier and faster to track where the kids are having issues and much easier to tailor the work for where they are stumbling...

It's not that the teacher can't do ti without the iPads, it's just so much more efficient, with the software doing alot of the heavy lifting.

And the test results show that, especially in literacy

David Bouffard's picture

What's your definition of improvement?

Jason, I followed the link you provided, which took me to a Google search with results. I'm assuming that the first result to an iPad Insight article is the one you're referencing. That article quotes parts of a report from the Auburn School Department and also provides a link to it, but the link is no longer valid. The iPad Insight article does not quote any measurements, but an article from the Sun Journal around the same year does, and it's still valid at http://www.sunjournal.com/news/lewiston-auburn/2012/10/22/ipad-students-....

Maybe it's true that "Since the introduction of iPads, fall-to-spring growth rates on the district's literacy and math assessment have increased 4–10 percent over previous years" but why aren't proficiency rates any higher? According to the Sun Journal article I referenced above, Reading proficiency was 67% in spring 2011-12 (with iPad) but higher at 70% in 2009-10 (without iPad); Phonics and writing proficiency was 80% in 2011-12 (with iPad) and the same in 2009-10 (without iPad); math proficiency was 61% in 2011-12 (with iPad) but higher at 62% in 2009-10 (without iPad).

I'm all for technology if it's helping students and affordable, but I'm not sure that either are true in this case. If iPads are only used less than an hour per day as you stated, then that's an expensive way to achieve the same proficiency as could be achieved with teachers who are already hired and have less pay to negotiate with at the sake of iPads (budgeted teacher payroll cut $500,000 but iPads remain at $200,000). Why not spend the $200,000 on hiring more teachers and/or giving raises to teachers? Also, why can't multiple grades share the same iPads if only used less than an hour per student each day, and the iPads can do a lot of heavy lifting as you stated?

Jason Theriault's picture

I voted no

I wanted them to spend more

I have made this argument time and time again, but that's ok. Next year, taxes are gonna go through the roof, and they can start fixing buildings.

PHILIP LAINE's picture

Just curious. How many

Just curious. How many registered voters does Auburn have?

 's picture

Registered voters in Auburn

According to the voter registration list 16,058 (as of a couple months ago)

PHILIP LAINE's picture

Just under 10% voted. That's

Just under 10% voted. That's sad. Then again it's no better when Lewiston voted on their school budget.

DANNY FITZSIMMONS's picture

yeah well

Yeah well part of that is because Lewiston forces all their voters to go to the most crime ridden part of town where you don't know if what's in your car will still be there when you return and more than half the voters who show up are from the area where they really don't worry about such things like property taxes and even higher rent as it is subsidized for them. And that sits quite nicely with the school dept. but you can bet your tippy if they tried to move it to where the majority who pay taxes the school dept. would be crying foul and protest and use scare tactics or even like the previous school superintendent illegally using school property to sway the voters and to make sure the ones on his side would show up to vote. He even admitted to it to the journal and he was never ever punished for it.

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