AUBURN — As they started their April vacation, Auburn students were sent home with a notice telling parents the City Council would soon be voting on the school budget.
Superintendent Katy Grondin made some pitches for why the school budget should be increased to maintain programs, how the school department has been frugal, and how the budget would mean a home valued at $150,000 would have a tax bill increase of $66 a year.
And, Grondin said, “the City Council wants to hear from you!”
Grondin included the names of councilors, the mayor, their phone numbers and email addresses.
The council is taking up the school budget at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Auburn Hall, followed by a regular meeting at 7 p.m.
On April 23 it is expected to vote on the school budget and send it to public referendum May 8.
Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said Monday that he “welcomes any and all input” on the budget. About the School Department's note to parents, “there's a fine line between advocacy and information sharing,” he said.
Grondin's flyer “hints at advocacy. There's some pro-school spin,” LaBonte said, adding that the council welcomes public input.
“There seems to be a split among councilors between no tax increase and those not opposed to an increase if the money's well spent,” he said.
If the proposed municipal budget and school budget were passed, it would result in a 5 percent increase. “I'm fairly confident that 5 percent increase will come down,” LeBonte said.
There are savings to be found in “back office operations,” the mayor said, if the School Department and city hall build strong relationships.
He said he's asked School Department Business Manager Jude Cyr when the School Department and city hall last looked at bringing together IT, finance and human resources.
“He said, 'When Bob Thorpe was mayor.' I was in grade school then," said LaBonte, 31. “So there are opportunities for efficiencies to maximize dollars.” They won't emerge in this year's budget, he said, but could in the near future.