AUBURN — The School Committee on Wednesday made it clear it will not ask local taxpayers for more money.

Superintendent Katy Grondin presented a spending plan that reduced the local share by more than $400,000, as directed by the City Council.

That budget would have required a $27 tax increase on a property valued at $150,000.

But the committee asked Grondin to cut the increase to zero. That means Grondin must find another $350,000 in cuts.

“It is almost unfathomable to ask for an increase in taxes,” with people losing their jobs and businesses closing, Chairwoman Karen Mathieu said.

Gov. Janet Mills has ordered that only essential businesses stay open during the coronavirus pandemic, to slow the spread of the COVID-19 illness.

Mathieu said the bottom line for her was keeping positions that have a direct impact on teaching and learning.

“We need to look at what helps kids, what helps classroom teachers, what helps taxpayers,” she said.

But the committee’s directive will mean cutting positions, Grondin said.

She said she could “nickel and dime” maybe $50,000 in cuts by eliminating things such as conferences and professional development.

“Everything you don’t want to reduce, will have to be reduced,” she said.

She said she and Business Manager Adam Hanson had looked at administrative positions but had decided not to cut any.

“We think administrators are just as important as teachers,” Grondin said.

Now they will have to look at everything.

“I will look at the budget for more cuts,” she said. “If you want me to do the hard stuff and identify positions in the budget, I will do that.”

Grondin’s initial budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year was $48.36 million, a 6.5% increase over this year. It would have increased taxes on a $150,000 property by $190.

That was before the pandemic.

The School Committee on March 23 asked Grondin to reduce the budget by $1.3 million. That required eliminating 13 positions, all but one new.

Mathieu said Wednesday she wanted to present a budget to voters that would not be rejected.

“It just comes down to fiduciary responsibility,” she said. “Now, in this crisis time we don’t know what voter turnout will look like, whether we go to the polls or vote by mail.”

She said though there is “huge support out there” for teachers and what they are doing, “we have to be careful what we are asking taxpayers to do.”


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