AUBURN – In a special meeting called with less than a day’s notice, the Auburn School Committee learned Wednesday that it may have to make $80,000 in additional budget cuts. That could mean the loss of a speech therapist and a music teacher.

Although property values will go up, giving the city more money, school officials said they were told late Tuesday that the city will not share the extra revenue with the school department. It’s a loss that school officials didn’t expect.

“How can we run an organization on the same amount of money as last year? You can’t do it and offer the same services,” Superintendent Barbara Eretzian said.

Last month, the committee approved a $31.2 million budget that would have added 91 cents to the city’s $29.38 property tax rate. When the City Council said it didn’t want any tax increase next year, School Committee members began looking for ways to cut nearly $1.4 million.

On last week’s chopping block were 17 teachers, some support staff, several after-school activities and an elementary foreign language program.

At issue now is the additional money Auburn is expected to earn from next year’s higher property values. Although the tax rate would stay the same, the higher valuation would give the city an extra $19 million from property taxes, school officials said.

Councilors and committee members discussed the situation in a joint meeting Monday. Although there was some confusion, acting Finance Director Laurie Smith said at the time that she knew schools were getting less in state aid and increases in city property values should make up the difference.

But Jude Cyr, business manager for the school system, said Smith called early Tuesday evening to say the school system would not be getting any additional money, even if property values rose. She said the school system should keep next year’s budget at this year’s level: $29.7 million.

In the special meeting Wednesday, committee members remained confused. Such directives are supposed to come only from the City Council. But during two days of budget workshops, councilors had apparently not voted on the issue.

“I don’t understand it. There were no votes,” said Bethel Shields, the mayor’s School Committee representative. “It was simply a presentation yesterday.”

Shields agreed to ask the council about the issue. School Committee members agreed to consider the additional cuts, but urged the superintendent to find ways to save some staff members.

The committee will meet next at 7 p.m. June 2 at the Auburn Land Lab. The committee is expected to vote on cutting one elementary French teacher and three high school teachers. Because the school system has already signed a contract with those teachers, the committee will need to formally terminate the positions and fire the employees.

According to labor rules, Auburn must give teachers 90 days notice before firing them.

The other 13 teaching positions will be cut through attrition. The people in those positions are retiring or have decided to take other jobs.

Committee members said Wednesday the board will vote on those cuts after its budget has been formally set by the council.


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