Group urges $1.2M in school budget cuts


AUBURN – Calling for layoffs and a reassessment of school buildings, members of a citizen Budget Committee Monday called for $1.2 million in cuts from the Auburn School Department.

“We have a tremendous commitment to children,” said Ron Potvin, of 82 Northern Ave., spokesman for the budget panel. “We have no problems with the quality of the schools. This is not a service issue, but a financial issue. It’s time to give the taxpayers a break.”

Speaking to a joint meeting of the City Council and School Committee, Potvin offered the services of budget committee members in finding money to cut. The group didn’t have specific items, but he said they were confident they could find $1.2 million to trim.

“No one broad stroke will get us to $1.2 million, but if you find 30 or 40 small strokes, I think we can do it,” Potvin said. He offered school employee layoffs as a place to start.

“It’s time to waive the no layoff clause,” he said. “We have a list of 25 positions that we want to discuss with them, and then it’s time to take a comprehensive look at the school building usage.”

School Superintendent Barbara Eretzian said she was willing to meet with the committee. She was skeptical of trimming $1.2 million, however.

“This is the very first time I’ve heard any of this,” Eretzian said.

She and City Manager Pat Finnigan presented the full city budget to councilors, school committee members and a group of 77 citizens and school employees. The $64.1 million budget calls for a $523,196 spending increase in city departments – including police, fire and public works – and a $2.02 million increase in the schools.

Now city councilors will take the budget and begin looking for places to trim.

Ellen Peters, of 15 Shepley St., urged caution.

“Education is at the top of my list, the most important thing,” she said. “If you cut, be very deliberate in what you cut. Be very careful and think about what you are doing, about who will suffer and who will benefit, not only in the short term but in the very long term.”

Kristin Norcross, of 118 Orchard St., doubted Potvin’s numbers.

“I really don’t know where you can find that kind of money,” she said. “I hope you accept this budget as it is. Let’s support our teachers and the job they do.”

But Dan Herrick, of 470 Hatch Road, said the issue was not about supporting teachers.

“When anybody starts talking about the school budget, you hear that they’re anti-child or anti-teacher,” Herrick said. “God forbid we are ever like that. This is only about the money.”

He urged the schools to reduce the number of administrators, especially at Edward Little High School.

“I believe we can be better than we’ve been, and still cut the grass on the top,” Herrick said.