What you need to know

What’s the proposed budget and its impact?

The Lewiston School Department preliminary budget is $69.9 million, a 7.8 percent increase. Superintendent Bill Webster thinks these numbers will go down.

Property taxes are estimated increase 3.9 percent, or $58.50 more a year for a home assessed at $150,000.

Why is it up so much?

“Lewiston is a growing community,” Webster said. “When your student population is going up 5 percent a year as it has been of late, and when you consider the additional costs of our growing special ed population, it doesn’t take much to get to that 7 percent level.” 


Lewiston had 5,431 students in October 2015, an increase of 270 from the spring. A recent outside study had projected Lewiston would only gain 100 students.

What are major increases?

• $1.92 million for 45 new positions, of which 33 are for special ed students.

• $723,672 for positions added last fall to meet a growing number of students last year.

• $500,000 more for transportation from a new, five-year contract with Hudson Bus to bus students.

• $467,000 for summer programs to prevent summer learning loss; a grant that paid for the programs has expired.


• $163,000 for more professional days for teachers to help implement new initiatives, including the state-mandated Proficiency Based Learning.

• $86,000 to pay for a new plumbing program at Lewiston Regional Technical Center.

• $1.2 million for increases in teacher raises, benefits and supplies.

When do voters decide on a budget?

May 10

LEWISTON — More’s the word.


More students — and more of them with special needs — means Lewiston taxpayers could pay nearly 4 percent more in property taxes for the next school budget.

The proposed 2016-17 budget is $69.8 million, a $5 million increase, Superintendent Bill Webster said Wednesday.

It’s a 7.8 percent jump that would hike property taxes about $58.50 a year on a home assessed at $150,000. But the tax impact will likely be less by the time the budget is decided by voters on May 10.

“Even with our growing student population, this budget will likely need to be reduced,” Webster said.

Lewiston receives more state money for education because it has a growing student population; however, the state money is not keeping pace, Webster said.

“And there’s a delay,” he said. “State money is based on students we had last year. In some cases, such as special education, transportation and Lewiston Regional Technical Center, there’s a two-year delay.”


How much money Lewiston will receive from the state won’t be known until state lawmakers decide the state budget. Lewiston’s proposed school budget was based on estimates of what the state will give.

But taxpayers will pay more. This is the year that Lewiston, Auburn and other cities have to pay a higher local share of education or be penalized by losing state money — roughly $2.40 for every $1 not raised locally.

Webster outlined the proposal to the School Committee on Wednesday night.

“These numbers are going to change,” he cautioned during an interview Wednesday morning. “I am not proposing this so much as trying to identify our most pressing needs, and give enough information to the School Committee to make decisions that need to be made to whatever bottom line we end up having.”

More students

This fall, enrollment numbers showed the student population was 5,431 — way more than expected.


A study to predict student population growth in December 2014 projected the city would gain 100 students. By October, Lewiston had gained 270 students.

Webster said his 30-second answer to why the budget would be higher is: “Lewiston is a growing community. When your student population is going up 5 percent a year as it has been of late, and when you consider the additional costs of our growing special ed population, it doesn’t take much to get to that 7 percent level.”

Of the 270 new students, 100 have special ed needs, which is creating a demand for more special ed classrooms.

“It’s a tough sell to say we need to spend money so we will save money,” he said, but for students who need autism programs, Lewiston can save $23,000 per student by teaching them in-house versus sending them out of district. The in-house education is the same level of quality, if not greater, he said.

The fact that Lewiston is getting more special ed students leaves Webster wondering what’s going on.

For instance, he said, “We have 18 4-year-old students identified by Child Development Services as likely needing specialized autism services.”


The national rate of autism is one in every 68 children.

“If we have 18 kids coming to us, that’s about one out of every 25 kids — more than double the national rate.”

One likely reason is that as a service center with good in-house programs, families with special needs children move here.

Another unknown possibility is how much lead in old housing stock downtown could be creating lead poisoning in young children, Webster said.

“No one knows that,” he said. 

He’s recommending Lewiston add two new autism classrooms at a cost of $775,000.

Meanwhile, the city’s English Language Learner population continues to grow, reaching 1,400 for the first time, which is more than 25 percent of Lewiston’s student population. Most of the those students are children of Somali families.

The higher number is prompting the need to hire three English Language Learner teachers and an English Language Learner secretary at the cost of $173,759.

The secretarial position was cut two years ago, Webster said. With more English Language Learner students, “there is just too much work for the director alone to do.”

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