LEWISTON — After being told by the City Council to reduce school spending, the School Committee reluctantly gave a nod Wednesday to trimming $238,000 from the 2015-16 budget.

On the chopping block in Superintendent Bill Webster’s $64.9 million spending plan:

* One of the two deans at Lewiston High School, saving $40,000. Both positions are filled, but no one would be laid off. One of the deans would be transferred to a teaching position, Webster said.

* One day of professional development for teachers next year, which would save $31,000.

* $70,000 from the special education account, but restoring a Longley special ed teacher at a cost of $50,000, which would allow the school to have one contained special ed classroom.

Savings found in several places include reducing the electricity budget at the high school by $30,000 after an analysis showed the high school was using less electricity; a health insurance rate hike of 4.5 percent instead of the budgeted 5 percent, saving $34,000; and $83,000 less for transportation because the School Department learned Tuesday it is not responsible for transportation to the Baxter Academy charter school in Portland.

Other costs yet to be examined include not allowing a small, $90,000 Lewiston Middle School alternative program to expand to Lewiston High School. That program would help 15 to 20 struggling students. A vote will be held Monday night.

Lewiston High School Assistant Principal Don Ferrara said the alternative program at the high school is critical. There will be a small alternative program in the budget or taxpayers could be paying $30,000 per student in outside placements, or he’ll be bringing students to the school board for expulsion, Ferrara said.

“We will have students we can’t program effectively for and then we will lose them,” Ferrara said. “They’ll become dropouts or disciplinary issues or both.”

The School Committee discussed eliminating the DARE officer after Webster reported that principals unanimously agreed DARE was ineffective. But, Webster added, that can’t happen because a federal grant the city has says Lewiston cannot eliminate a police officer’s position without jeopardizing the grant.

Webster will talk with City Administrator Ed Barrett and bring more possibilities to the committee Monday night before the vote.

Committee member Paul St. Pierre said he was unhappy with reductions in spending because they will affect student services.

“If the city continues badgering us in this way to have to make additional cuts, those cuts are going to have to be in positions, because there isn’t any fat in the budget,” St. Pierre said.

In Webster’s initial budget released March 4, he proposed a 6.1 percent increase in spending. Most, $2.3 million, would be paid for by the state, the remaining $1.16 million by local taxpayers. That budget would raise taxes on a property valued at $150,000 by $81.

The higher spending in the proposed budget is needed, he said, to cover higher costs in special education because of a growing number of students. In the past two years, Lewiston has seen a 10 percent increase of students with special needs, especially children with autism.

Other reasons for the higher budget are more teachers and education technicians are needed to reduce classroom sizes in elementary schools.

After the School Committee votes on the budget Monday, it will be sent to the City Council. Taxpayers will have the final say during a school budget referendum on May 12.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: