AUBURN – The city will try to soften the impact of removing police officers from Edward Little High School and Auburn Middle School.

But city councilors Monday went ahead with a $58.8 million budget over the urgings of school employees and students. The no-tax-increase budget will mean spending cuts for both the city and schools, including staff layoffs and removing two of the city’s three student resource officers stationed in Auburn schools.

“If there were the extra dollars, we would be happy to spend it on the schools,” said Councilor Belinda Gerry. “We have tried and we have tried, but there are not the dollars in this budget.”

Deputy Police Chief Phil Crowell said the city would keep officers in both the high school and Auburn Middle School part time. The schools would have to share those officers with the rest of the city, however.

Auburn police will also work with Lewiston police to get a $9 million grant, enough to put three officers in the schools full time and have a fourth community officer to deal with truancy.

Edward Little counselor Dan Campbell said he’d rather have the community officers in the schools now.

“I know the intentions are good,” he said. “They’re all paved with gold, but things don’t always work out the way we want.”

40 cents

Councilor Bob Mennealy, saying he supported the schools, urged councilors to increase the budget by another $500,000. That would have added 40 cents to the property tax rate.

“Being on a fixed income myself, and in a house where that will be valued higher, I will be affected,” Mennealy said. “But our children deserve better.”

None of his colleagues agreed, however. Councilors later passed the budget on first reading by a 6-1 vote. A second reading is scheduled Monday, June 21.

The current budget would keep the property tax rate at $29.38, despite requests from city and school departments for spending increases. The city wanted $447,008 more to spend, compared to the current budget. The school department wanted $1.4 million more.

Instead, councilors favored no tax rate hike. That would mean no budget increase for the schools and a $60,544 cut for municipal departments.

School officials have cut two English teachers, a social studies teacher from Edward Little High School and a part-time elementary school foreign language teacher.

Mennealy wasn’t the only one in the room urging the council to extend the school’s budget. More than 50 people crammed in council chambers, many Auburn students and teachers bearing signs reading “Kids before capital improvements” and “Aren’t teachers more important than furniture?”

But few spoke. Steve Galway, assistant principal at Edward Little High School, urged councilors to keep the officers in the schools. He brought a box of weapons students had brought to school in the last 10 years – several knives, some handguns, Mace and an old hand grenade. All were collected before the city had regular officers in the school. Since the city put police in the schools, Galway had collected no weapons.

Taking the officers out would invite violence, he said.

“No school is isolated from violence,” he said. “No school is insulated. No school is immune.”

Gary Simard of 157 Cook St. told councilors he wanted to see more details of their budget cuts.

“How will it affect us? I think it’s only fair to tell us,” he said. “I’m not saying you can’t do what you need to do, but it might be easier if you tell the people what to expect.”

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