AUBURN – Teacher cuts in Auburn schools are only part of a larger budget picture, according to City Manager Pat Finnigan.

Another part of the picture – cuts in municipal staff and services – should become clearer tonight when she unveils her plan to trim city spending.

“We now have an idea, from a city point of view, what that impact is going to be,” Finnigan said.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the Fairview Elementary School, 397 Minot Ave. Finnigan said she would present her plan for cuts at that meeting.

Both municipal staff and the school department wanted spending increases in fiscal year 2004-2005.

The city wanted $447,008 more to spend, compared to the current budget. The school department wanted $1.4 million more.

But councilors quashed both increases, saying they wanted to keep the property tax rate level at $29.38 for each $1,000 of property values. That would mean no budget increase for the schools and a $60,544 cut for municipal departments.

Finnigan said she presented a plan for those cuts to councilors at an executive session on May 27. Those cuts would involve staff layoffs, so she’s been meeting with the employees involved privately before making them public.

“That’s what I’ve been doing since then, meeting with those employees to tell them what to expect,” Finnigan said.

School officials have already started trimming their staff. The school committee voted last week to cut two English teachers and a social studies teacher from Edward Little High School and a part-time elementary school foreign language teacher.

But Finnigan doesn’t want budget cuts between the schools to become a competition.

“When it turns into a he said, she said’ situation, that doesn’t do anybody any good,” Finnigan said. “We have two departments, but it’s one budget in the end. It all combines together on the tax bill, and that’s what we need to focus on.”

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