AUBURN— Under Auburn Superintendent Katy Grondin’s proposed school budget, the Auburn Land Lab would be eliminated, as would seven positions, which could mean two people losing their jobs.

On the spending side, Auburn would pay about $400,000 to replace aging high school laptop computers and provide second-graders with iPads.

Another $412,000 would be budgeted for teacher raises and benefits, about another $1 million is needed for costs created by state policy changes in teacher retirements and Medicaid.

“Ouch,” Grondin said. “It’s very depressing.”

Overall, Grondin’s proposing the Auburn school budget would go up 4.8 percent, to $37.6 million, an increase of $1.72 million from the current $35.9 budget.

Grondin went over her proposal Wednesday with the Auburn School Committee and with the Sun Journal.

Looking at the costs that are boosting spending, “special education is the biggest, anything else is salary or benefits, regular instruction, debt service or technology,” Grondin said. “There’s no frills. There’s no bells and whistles.”

Grondin said she can’t yet determine the impact on property taxes because she doesn’t know how much revenue from taxpayers the budget will need. Some of the revenue estimates, such as the city’s valuation, are not yet done, Grondin said. The proposed impact on property taxes will be available later in March, she said.

When taxpayers tell her they hope spending won’t go up, she says, “’Well, how can you not increase?’” Costs go up. The only way to address that is through cuts or increasing property taxes. “To maintain a high level of education, it costs money.” But, she said, “we have to be very sensitive to our taxpayers.”

Property taxes are high in Auburn, Grondin said, but the city is also underfunding education by about $2 million a year, according to the state funding formula.

New laptops, iPads

Big new expenses in the proposed budget include $546,268 to cover a state shift in Medicaid payments for services to special ed students sent to out-of-district programs; and $511,103 to pay for future teacher retirement pensions, a cost the state used to cover. That amount will go down, Grondin said, because the state is also increasing some money in the education formula to help soften the blow. As of Wednesday Grondin wasn’t sure how much that would be.

Plus, another $188,404 for debt service, or annual loan payments to cover school building improvements, including new roofs, new heating and cooling systems, and a new boiler at Edward Little High School.

For technology, the budget would spend about $400,000, including $104,396 to lease iPads for second-graders. That would expand the iPad program to three grades, K-2, giving those students one-to-one iPads.

“We know it’s going to be a topic of discussion,” Grondin said of the iPads. The iPads are helping increase student achievement and supports Auburn’s vision of customized, personalized learning, Grondin said. “If we’re committed to what we say we’re committed to, it needs to be in here.”

The budget would spend $298,680 to upgrade high school laptops; that amount includes $47,000 to buy back 1,000 old laptops.

The state provides laptops for grades 7-8 and up to $242 per student for grades 9-12. Auburn taxpayers pay the balance for high school laptops.

The four-year lease for laptops is about to expire. “We talked about whether we could afford to. We feel we can’t afford not to do it. If we don’t, we’d have old laptops with no warranties.” That would mean spending more for repairs.

In buying the old laptops from the state — 1,000 for $47 each — Auburn plans to keep some for lower grades, and sell some to the community and to graduating seniors.

Cuts include Land Lab

To pay for all the above expenses, “we have to make reductions,” Grondin said.

She’s proposing $551,361 in cuts, including $93,000 not to replace a bus, cutting $100,000 out of the $238,000 budget to pay for teacher course reimbursements and changing two high school programs, she said.

Cuts would also eliminate seven positions saving $263,863. Those include veteran Land Lab teacher Jim Chandler, a Washburn Elementary School librarian, a middle school secretary, a central office secretary, two high school teachers (one special ed and another credit recovery) and a teaching appraisal consulting teacher. Of those eliminations, three — the librarian and high school teachers — would be replaced by ed techs.

Grondin said she’s found jobs for some who would be displaced, but her budget could mean two people would be laid off, including Chandler.

Proposing to close the Land Lab “was a very difficult decision,” Grondin said. “It’s been on the list every year. When you look at what’s left, we’re down to the bone.” The Land Lab provides hands-on field trips and “is an extra benefit.”

Auburn school budget facts, highlights

Current budget: $35.9 million

Proposed new budget: $37.62 million

Increase: 4.8 percent, or $1.72 million

Impact on property taxes: Not yet known because revenue information not finalized. Impact on property taxes will be known later in March.

Big reasons for the higher budget: Higher costs from changed state policies in teacher pensions and Medicaid, replacing laptops at the high school, money for teacher raises and benefits.

Cuts in budget: Include seven positions eliminated, including Land Lab, two high school teachers, Washburn Elementary School librarian, two secretaries and one consultant teacher. Two people would be laid off.

Student enrollment: Current, 3,660, projected to grow to 3,697, or 37 more students this fall.

What now? The Auburn School Committee will hold a series of public budget meetings, those scheduled include March 13, 20, 27 and April 3 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Auburn Hall. The referendum where voters vote for or reject the budget will be June 11.

For more information, call the School Department at 784-6431, or go to www.auburnschl.edu/pages/Auburn_School_Department


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