LEWISTON — Superintendent Jake Langlais reviewed a $101 million budget proposal with the School Committee on Wednesday, a figure he aims to reduce over the next several weeks.

The spending plan represents an 8.6% increase from the current operating budget of $93 million. The School Committee will need to remove items or raise taxes under the proposal.

“When you see some big numbers tonight, I need to let you know that I anticipate this process to involve numerous recommendations from me and my team of things that we work through and make some tough decisions to reduce the number that you see tonight,” Langlais said.

School administrators are prioritizing improving the special education program and finding funds for select items that have been paid for using state and federal aid over the past two years.

Langlais attributed other increases to inflation, rises in salary and benefits, greater needs by English language learning students, as well as loans previously approved by residents for capital improvement projects.

Some of the government aid funded programs and positions will end as early as this fall, however most will continue until the summer of 2023, Assistant Superintendent Karen Paquette said.


“We’re not looking to grow a lot of resources this year, we’re looking to return resources from relief funding that’s going to sunset,” Langlais said.

Instructional interventionists, reading recovery positions and social and emotional learning positions will continue to be funded by government aid during the next school year.

So too will Lewiston’s summer school, which was moved to relief funding last year. The program will run this year using temporary funds, but will need to be worked into the budget next year.

If the district can’t find the funding for the program during the next budget review, it may not run, Langlais said.

In order to reduce Lewiston’s tight budget, the district is searching to cut vacant positions it can do without.

“When we talk about really hard cuts, it’s not long before we start talking about people,” Langlais said. “(Staff and benefits) is a very costly item,” accounting for two-thirds of the district’s budget.


Langlais and Special Education Director Kirsten Crafts identified 18 special education — mostly educational technician — positions to eliminate from the program.

“That’s a big number,” Langlais said, later adding, “These are vacant positions that, because of programming shifts and student enrollments, we’ve been able to realize that some were not needed to begin with and the rest are not currently needed because of enrollments.”

An audit by American Education Consultants in 2020 found that the district was hiring more educational technicians than necessary. The audit additionally found that Lewiston could save money by reducing the number of students sent to out-of-district programs by hiring their own staff.

“What we spend to transport our special populations is unimaginable,” Langlais said. “Much of that cost is these outplacements because we can’t serve them at home.”

If the district could hire staff to serve just 10 or 11 students within Lewiston schools, “we would save all the cost to send them elsewhere and then some,” Langlais said.

According to district data, 116 students are enrolled in outplacement programs.


Last year, school officials presented the School Committee with a more conservative spending plan with fewer items and initiatives. By the end of the discussion, 70 items had been added to the budget by the School Committee, many of which had been removed by school administrators during earlier stages of the process.

“I’m taking a very deliberate and intentional approach not to do that this year,” Langlais said. “I think it lands us in a challenging position with the community and also the City Council who feels like things were chugging along and then all of a sudden something changed.”

Rather than add items back to the budget that the School Committee is passionate about, he aims to start high and whittle the budget down.

Langlais said he is hopeful to create a “conservative budget given the times, but also one that we can maximize to meet the most of our students needs as best as we can.”

“The taxpayers in our community, I think, have been very supportive of education,” Langlais said. “We have to be realistic about the constraints that we have with what people are able to contribute and the level of need that we have.”

The proposed tax rate increase was not available Wednesday and will be shared during a future budget workshop.

According to City Administrator Heather Hunter, a spending increase of $2.2 million would roughly be equivalent to a $1 boost in the tax rate, or $150 more on property assessed at $150,000.

The next budget workshop will take place at 5:30 p.m. March 7 in Connors Elementary School.

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