AUBURN — The School Department budget for 2019-20 is $2 million higher than this year’s, as proposed by Superintendent Katy Grondin.

The proposed budget is $45.69 million, up from $43.69 million.

Auburn School Superintendent Katy Grondin said her proposed 2019-20 school budget would maintain programs and provide extra help to students where needed. Sun Journal file photo

If passed as proposed, the impact on property taxes would be a 2.69 percent increase. For a property valued at $150,000, the annual tax hike would be $36.96, according to Business Manager Adam Hanson.

Grondin described the budget as one that maintains programs, creates help for students where needed but is “fiscally responsible.”

Last year, the school budget did not increase property taxes.

Of the $2 million increase, about $1 million is needed to cover pay raises and health benefits. 

The remaining increase is largely for 13 positions new to the budget, including five that will save the district money in the long term, Grondin said.

The five new positions would be one teacher and four educational technicians for a new, in-house special education program for kindergarten students with autism at Walton School.

The program would cost $206,000. If the in-house program isn’t created, the students will be sent to an out-of-district program at a cost of $55,000 per student. That would cost $13,000 more than creating an in-house program, Grondin said. The program could expand, creating more savings.

The number of young students with autism is rising. Last year Auburn had to place eight incoming kindergarten students out of district at a cost of $298,383. Of the eight, seven had autism. In the fall of 2018, Auburn placed four incoming kindergarten students with autism at an estimated cost of $260,763. In both years those costs were unanticipated, Grondin said.

The School Committee has asked for a way to reduce the number of Auburn students sent out of district. “This is our proposal,” Grondin said.

Also, five new positions are proposed for:

  • Park Avenue Elementary, an English Language Learner teacher.
  • Walton Elementary, a behavior educational technician and a math teacher.
  • Auburn Middle School, an interventionist teacher to help where needed.
  • Edward Little High School, a computer science teacher and substance-use counselor.
  • Washburn Elementary, a math coach and two educational technicians.

The three Washburn positions are new to the budget but not new to the school. This year they’re covered by a federal school-improvement grant that is running out, Grondin said.

With the help from the improvement grant, “Washburn is doing great work,” Grondin said. “We need to continue that work.”

The proposed budget maintains relatively modest elementary class sizes. They range from a low of 15 students in grades one and two at East Auburn Elementary to 25 students in a few fifth- and sixth-grade classes at East Auburn, Fairview and Walton.

Class size averages for elementary schools are: East Auburn, 20; Fairview, 21; Park Avenue, 20; Sherwood Heights, 20; Walton, 19 and Washburn, 19.

The School Committee is scheduled to vote May 1 on a budget that will go to the City Council for a vote. The council is scheduled to vote on the budget May 13, with voters having the final say June 11.

[email protected]

filed under: