AUBURN — A $2.5 million council directive will send the School Committee members and administration back to the budget books and could imperil a plan to provide iPad 2s to all city kindergarten students.

Councilors voted 4-3 to direct the School Committee to cut $2.5 million from its $35.9 million proposed budget after a meandering council workshop and meeting. Councilors Belinda Gerry, Mike Farrell, Dan Herrick and Ray Berube all voted for the cut.

Committee Chairman  David Das said the committee would meet Wednesday to discuss the impacts the cuts would have.

“That will be our whole day Wednesday,” Das said. “We don’t know what we’ll do, but the iPads are probably down the tubes.”

But councilors also gave themselves and the committee more time to work out a budget agreement, pushing back a referendum vote on the school budget to May 17. The council also voted to adopt and pass the final school budget by May 9.

School officials had proposed a $35.9 million budget earlier this year, a 5.2 percent increase over the current budget. That would be paid with $19.2 million in state revenues — $165,000 less than the current budget, $926,000 more in property taxes and $1 million from the School Department’s fund balances.

City councilors are working on a draft budget of their own. City Manager Glenn Aho said councilors had trimmed about $329,000 from his initial proposed budget. That includes cuts leaving the $80,000 assistant city manager’s job vacant, reducing the amount Auburn pays to the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council to $133,990 and reducing fringe benefits by $192,000.

Overall, Aho’s proposed budget would increase municipal spending by 2.06 percent — well within a 2.1 percent spending cap set by city ordinance.

Councilors spent much of Monday’s meeting debating whether that spending cap pertained to the School Department’s budget, just the municipal budget or the overall tax levy.

But Councilor Herrick said that discussion was just confusing the matter.

“I want to cut $2.5 million right off of the top end budget, or reduce their budget to a zero percent tax increase — whichever works,” Herrick said.

Concerns that a cut that deep could affect how much state aid the schools get sent councilors into a short recess. School officials came back after that recess and offered to cut their budget to about $34 million, trimming about $1.9 million from their proposal.

But councilors rejected that, favoring the $2.5 million cut.

Das said it would likely mean cuts in state aid as well, since the amount of state revenue the schools get depends on how much local property taxes are paid.

“The committee will just have to come up with a way to find those savings,” Das said.

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