AUBURN – Schools may get less than they hope for this year, councilors said Monday.

Councilors want no tax increase in the coming year’s budget, despite an Auburn School Committee budget request for a $1.4 million property tax.

“It worked well in the past that we just give them the amount of money we think prudent and let them make the school decisions,” said Councilor Kelly Matzen. “We would just suggest they look at some of these budget items, but we can’t tell them how to spend it.”

Matzen, Mayor Normand Guay and City Manager Pat Finnigan are scheduled to meet with select members of the School Committee this afternoon to discuss the budget. Guay and Matzen promised to take the council’s concern to the school board members.

At issue is the fiscal year 2004-05 budget that would demand a $1.84 million increase in property taxes. An increase like that would add $1.36 to the city’s property tax rate, increasing it to $30.74 for each $1,000 of property value.

“I would favor no increase in property taxes,” Councilor Joe DeFilipp said, and Councilors Belinda Gerry and Marcel Bilodeau agreed. Bilodeau suggested the School Committee reconsider class size issues and be prepared to do away with more expensive programs.

But the council can only set the tax rate, Guay said. The School Committee decides how its share is spent. Councilors would still need to trim $407,000 from the municipal budget if they want to keep the tax rate from rising.

That will mean staffing cuts, councilors agreed.

“Laying people off is unfortunate,” Councilor Richard Livingston said. “Nobody here wants to see that. But a few judicious layoffs now may prevent the need for massive layoffs later.”

Councilors will continue budget discussions on May 24.


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