School nurse cut; senior programs draw budget criticism

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LEWISTON – A handful of Catholic-school parents tried to preserve a city-funded school nurse from the budget ax Tuesday night.

Parents and principals from Lewiston parochial schools urged the City Council not to cut the $34,000 nurse from the budget.

“We need the nurse at these schools,” said Kate Benson of Auburn. Her daughter attends one of the schools.

“The office staff is no substitute,” she said. “They are wonderful people, but they act and speak with a mother’s heart, not with medical knowledge.”

The parochial school nurse is scheduled to retire after this year. City Administrator Jim Bennett said he doubts the city could find a replacement that would agree to the current nurse’s $34,000 salary and has proposed cutting the position. Councilors will have to increase the position’s salary substantially if they hope to keep the position.

Councilor Stavros Mendros said he’s determined to keep the nurse job in the budget.

“I think it’s important for the people in our community that attend parochial schools,” he said.

Councilors should begin in-depth budget discussions on April 18. They’re scheduled to meet with the Lewiston School Committee next Tuesday.

His proposed 2006-07 budget calls for a 4.1 percent increase in spending and $1.37 million more in property taxes. Those increases are offset by new commercial growth – bringing in $1.36 million in new property taxes – and cuts.

He proposed several proposed cuts, including the nurse position.

Bennett’s plan to move senior citizens out of the Multi-Purpose Center also drew fire. According to that plan, the city would move non-school programs out of the Multi-Purpose Center, turning the remaining space over to the Longley School. Bennett said the school would lease that space, instead of purchasing new temporary buildings and pay the city $201,389 per year.

Seniors objected to having their programs moved, possibly to the Lewiston Memorial Armory on Center Street. Madeline Beaulieu, of 212 Central Ave., said meetings, card games and other events regularly draw as many as 60 people to the Multi-Purpose Center.

“That’s 50 cars, and I can’t see that many parking spaces being available at the Armory – especially when school is in session,” Beaulieu said. “I guess, people will just stop coming. You have to find a place for us that’s more accessible.”

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