LISBON — The town manager and school superintendent are making strides to reduce their respective 2015-16 budget proposals by $300,000 and $600,000, compared to current budgets, per a directive by the Town Council in January.

The directive was not well received, with School Committee members, parents and staff expressing concerns at a public meeting last month that the council was overstepping its bounds in how the budget should be reduced.

However, in a meeting with the town’s attorney, Dan Stockford, the council was assured it was following state law and the town’s charter.

“You have the authority to determine the total budget, including how much money you are going to raise for that budget,” Stockford said.

Most School Committee members said they agreed with the memo from Stockford, but not with the wording in the directive, which targeted the specific revenue line for additional local funds.

“We are not targeting an expense line, we’re targeting a revenue line, that we’re raising above and beyond what we’re required (by state law),” said Dillon Pesce, chairman of the council. Under the town charter, the council decides on the total budget amount and the School Committee decides how it will be allocated.

Pesce said the council gave the town manager and the superintendent the directive at the beginning of the year so they would know early on what the council was prepared to approve, instead of waiting until the town manager and superintendent had already formulated their budgets.

Although some School Committee members accused Pesce of forcing them to have to cut teaching positions, other committee members said there were other things in the budget to cut and they would look at ways to make cuts that won’t affect education.

Superintendent Richard Green recently said that he has found ways to realign the budget without cutting programs or teachers.

“There’s more flexibility than I thought,” Green said.

He said he and the committee have already identified proposed budget changes of more than $300,000, including use of the capital reserve fund and undesignated funds, and are trying to identify other areas to come up with the remaining amount.

Possible sources under review include bond funds appropriated for the gym project, which has come in under budget, changes in how the state may handle the funding of charter schools and changing special education enrollment.

The 2014-15 school budget was $14.93 million and the local funding portion is $5.68 million, which was a decrease from the 2013-14 budget, according to Green. He said he expects no increase in the local portion of the budget now being formulated.

“This will be the third time in six years that the Lisbon School Department budget had a zero percent (increase) or a decrease on the local funding,” he said.

Regarding the municipal budget, the town manager’s proposed budget originally called for $7.42 millionfor 2015-16. This year’s budget is $7.40 million. Given the council’s $300,000 reduction mandate, the target is now $7.10 million.

Town Manager Diane Barnes said she has already identified more than $100,000 without cutting within departments or jobs, and will continue to work with the council to meet the target.

Last year, taxpayers saw an increase of $1.40 to the tax rate, which is $24.40, resulting in an increase of $140 for a home valued at $100,000.

The next Town Council meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 7, at the Town Office. A public budget workshop will follow the meeting.

The School Committee will meet at 7 p.m. Monday, April 13.

The town council will vote on the school budget on May 12 and the approved budget will go to the voters by referendum June 9. The town council hopes to finalize the municipal budget by its last meeting in June, however, last year’s budget wasn’t voted on until July.


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