Martel Elementary School students leave school on a March afternoon last year. This year’s school budget will be decided by voters during a referendum on Tuesday. Voting will be held at Longley Elementary School from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

LEWISTON — Voters will decide the proposed Lewiston school budget for 2017-18 Tuesday at Longley Elementary School.

Voting will be held from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Voters will be asked if they approve the Lewiston School Department budget, as well as a second, non-binding question which asks if the budget is too high, acceptable or too low.

Here are some highlights of the budget.

The proposed budget is $74.3 million, up from last year’s $68.8 million. Most of the budget is paid for by the state, an expected $52.3 million from Augusta, compared to $19.6 million from Lewiston taxpayers. Other parts of the budget come from last year’s expenditures not spent, plus federal money.

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How much more will the budget cost Lewiston taxpayers? For a homeowner with a property valued at $150,000, the property tax difference from the school budget will range between $46.50 more to $1.50 less; the latter is expected, but is not guaranteed.

The reason there’s no exact number is because it’s not known what will be in the state budget, expected to be passed in June. If legislators approve more money for education — which they often do — it would mean Lewiston would use that money to lower property taxes, Superintendent Bill Webster said. Lewiston’s school budget will include the minimum amount of local share to get 100 percent of state funding, Webster said.

Why is it $5.5 million higher? The budget increase is due to higher health insurance and other benefit costs, $1.6 million; new positions, $1.2 million; 3 percent raise for staff, $1.1 million; transportation, $500,000; continuing extended day and summer programs at some schools, $200,000; and $872,000 for the new school.

However, the state is paying for the new school, so the $872,000 shows up both as an expense and revenue, but it makes the budget look bigger.

Lewiston is attracting more students, which means adding more teaching staff. The budget includes 38.4 new positions, some which have already been added as new students showed up. A high number of the new positions are for special ed students, some which require one-on-one staffing.

The student population continues to grow. Unlike just about all other school districts in Maine, Lewiston continues the trend of a growing enrollment. Most districts in Maine are experiencing a declining enrollment. Lewiston’s student population is now about 5,600, compared to 5,234 in 2014 and 5,449 in 2016. Next year, enrollment is expected to be 5,700. More students does mean more education money from the state, but the money shows up one or two years later.

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What Lewiston spends per student: Lewiston’s per-pupil spending two years ago was $11,498 for 2015-16; the state average that year was $12,940. Lewiston’s projected per pupil spending in the budget is $12,895. There is no state average yet for 2017-18.

What does this budget do? “This budget allows us to maintain our present level of services, and provide a modest increase for the additional students we anticipate in Lewiston,” Webster said. 

Achievements: While it’s critical to talk about the numbers and impact on residents, Lewiston schools have much to be proud of, Webster said. Highlights of the last year include:

• More Lewiston students are being accepted into colleges and universities. Last year graduates did a “senior walk,” where they went to elementary school to encourage young students to graduate.

• Lewiston High School won state titles in hockey and cheering.

• Every Lewiston High School student now has a computer.

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• Eighth-grade students who struggled in school are in a new program, Star Academy, at the Lewiston Middle School. The program means they’ll be more likely to be successful next year in high school, which will improve the graduation rate.

• The child of every Lewiston family who wants pre-K is enrolled.

• Lewiston Regional Technical Center students are winning state trade skill competitions. And the new plumbing program has been well received.

• All new principals have been appointed this year, all of whom have been hired from within the Lewiston public school system.

• Construction on the new Connors Elementary School and new athletic fields, which is being paid for by the state, will begin by June.

File photo. Martel Elementary School kindergarten teacher Stephanie Hansen works with Aiden Lizotte last year. This year’s school budget will be decided by voters during a referendum on Tuesday. Voting will be from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. at Longley Elementary School.

File photo. Lewiston Superintenent Bill Webster

This year’s school budget will be decided by voters during a referendum on Tuesday. Voting will be from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. at Longley Elementary School.

McMahon Elementary students lined the halls last June as Lewiston High School seniors, including Jacob Folster above, center, walked through their old schools to get younger students excited about graduation. This year’s proposed school budget will be decided by voters Tuesday at Longley Elementary School. Voting will be held from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.


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