LEWISTON — The proposed $83.18 million school budget would put a lot more money — and teachers — into classrooms, giving all students the help they need, Superintendent Bill Webster told the School Committee on Monday night.
The 2018-19 budget calls for 38 new positions, including more than 30 teachers, along with educational technicians, teacher coaches and social workers.
The budget is nearly 12 percent higher than this year’s $74.37 million. The impact on property taxes is a 6.1 percent increase.
It includes money for the new elementary school which “inflates” the budget, Webster said. Without the new school, the increase would be 7.5 percent, he said.
The state pays for the new school, but the money is included as both revenue and spending. “It inflates the budget. It gives an erroneous picture of what’s happening in programming,” Webster said.
Most of the budget increase would be covered by a 17.4 percent increase in state education subsidy.
Lewiston stands to receive $61.7 million, compared to $20.5 million being asked of Lewiston taxpayers. But to get that state money, local spending for education has to increase.
If Lewiston taxpayers don’t spend an additional 6.1 percent for schools, the city will lose state funding at a rate of $3 for every $1 locally not spent.
The property tax increase of 6.1 percent means the owner of a home valued at $150,000 would pay $85 more.
The budget, if approved, would do much for Lewiston students, Webster said.
“Ultimately if the budget is approved, we are going to be in a much stronger position than we ever have been to meet the increasing needs of our students in a way that is going to foster more student success and student interest in their education,” Webster said.
Examples include better science learning with a new STEM (science-technology-engineering-math) teacher for Martel and Longley students, and another STEM teacher at Montello Elementary.
The budget has a grade 4 teacher at Farwell Elementary, a grade 2 teacher at Geiger, a math teacher at the Lewiston Middle School, an art teacher at the high school, an auto mechanics educational technician at Lewiston Regional Technical Center, and social workers at Geiger, Montello, McMahon and Longley elementary schools.
It has more English Language Learner teachers at Farwell, McMahon, Longley and Geiger. It has a bigger, alternative program for high school students with an alternative education dean of students and a social worker.
Of the new 38 positions, 17 would be for special education students, including new in-house staff to keep from sending students out of district, which is more expensive.
Building more in-house programs is likely part of the reason why Lewiston is seeing a continued spike in special education enrollment, which is growing faster than the regular education student population, Webster said.
But across the state and nation, the number of special education students is rising.
Adding to that is the fact that Lewiston is a service center, Webster said. “The doctors, medical community, clinical and social workers needed to support special ed students are here,” Webster said. That is another reason why more families with special education students are moving here, he said.
The committee will reveiw the budget and present it to the City Council for a March 26 workshop. The committee will vote on it April 9, the City Council on May 1 and the public on May 8.
Lewiston School Superintendent Bill Webster, right, presents his proposed $83M budget to the School Committee on Monday night. Committee Chairman Francis Gagnon listens. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)
“Ultimately if the budget is approved, we are going to be in a much stronger position than we ever have been to meet the increasing needs of our students in a way that is going to foster more student success and student interest in their education. ”
— Superintendent Bill Webster
Lewiston Middle School custodian Jordan Berube gets a hug from Principal Jana Mates after Berube was given a certificate of appreciation during the Lewiston School Committee meeting on Monday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)