LEWISTON — The School Committee on Wednesday began deliberations on a proposed $94.8 million budget that “will not meet the needs of our learners,” Superintendent Jake Langlais said.

He said he reduced the “reasonable, responsible” requests of building administrators by $9.2 million to arrive at his spending plan for 2021-22.

The administrators’ requests would have increased the budget by $15 million. “This was unacceptable to bring to our taxpayers,” Langlais said.

He had to make “tough decisions,” he said.

“Cutting $5 million from requests was not that hard,” he said. “Beyond that, we had to look at the needs of the students. That was real hard work.”

To make those decisions, he focused on the goals of planning for the district’s most vulnerable students and remediating the impacts of the pandemic on academics, he said.

He predicted that getting students back on track after more than a year of part-time and full-time remote instruction would take “maybe three years.”

His draft plan includes a 6.99% increase over the 2020-21 spending plan. The impact on the local property tax rate would be an increase of $1.46 per $1,000 of valuation.

The bulk of the increase is in contracted salaries and benefits, debt service for the voter-approved Lewiston High School expansion and technology needs.

A state law that takes effect in this budget cycle requires that all teachers be paid a minimum of $37,500, plus benefits.

Langlais said he made cuts in requests for instructional training to improve teaching and learning, among other things.

He beefed up programs for English language learners and included new positions in music, art, computer science and a drama teacher at the high school.

“Our community is rooted in expression, in culture and we need to grow that,” he said.

The 2020-21 budget of $88.6 million was twice reduced before it went to voters, first from a proposed $91.04 million to lower the additional local increase to zero and then to further ease the burden on taxpayers during the pandemic.

Those cuts make his fiscal year 2021-22 budget “look like a big step,” Langlais said.

The School Committee heard requests Wednesday to add positions back into the budget, including a full-time nurse. Those requests will be set aside for further debate.

Deliberations will continue March 8, 10, 15 and 17. All meetings begin at 5:30 p.m. at Connors Elementary School. They also will be streamed online. Participation is available via the district’s website.

The committee is scheduled to adopt a spending plan April 5 and to present it to the City Council on April 13. The council will vote on it May 4 and it will go to voters May 11 for initial approval ahead of a July referendum.

“A rejection on any of these votes along the way will result in a new start to the budget process,” Langlais said.


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