WINSLOW — The school administration gave a presentation Thursday evening about what it calls a crisis budget situation and the increased needs straining the system to an audience of about 50 at the junior high school.

At the end of the meeting, the administrators handed out a sheet with contact information for the local representatives and asked people to call those in Augusta and ask them to restore school funding.

The proposed school budget of $14.68 million is 2.1 percent greater than last year’s budget. The increase, paired with a sharp decrease in state revenue, has left the school’s budget in the hole for nearly $700,000.

Schools across Maine are struggling with potentially massive cuts to state revenue after Gov. Paul LePage recommended 48 changes to the funding formula for essential programs and services.

At a budget workshop Tuesday evening, the Town Council said it would raise taxes by $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value, giving the surplus to the school, and use $350,000 from the fund balance to help make up the difference. A warrant article will be added to the ballot that would put any additional state revenue back toward the fund balance and local share.

As a compromise, the school will have to make another $150,000 in cuts. The school board recently voted to approve $200,000 in cuts before presenting the budget to the council.

Winslow schools, which are part of Alternative Organizational Structure 92 along with Waterville and Vassalboro, held an informational meeting about the budget issues to ask the public to help them restore education funding as well as let people know what’s going on.

“We’re all in this together,” Superintendent Eric Haley said.

Haley spoke about why funding public education was important, even for those who don’t have children in the school system.

“It’s our investment in human resource for the future,” he said, asking if people wanted someone who was uneducated to make decisions in the future about health care and elderly care. “It’s a responsibility that we have.”

Assistant Superintendent Peter Thiboutot spoke about why it costs more to educate students now, even though the district serves fewer people.

“It’s important to remember that we are a public school, not a private school, not a charter school,” he said. “Our responsibility is to serve and educate all students who live in our community. That includes students who live in poverty, students who are homeless, students who struggle with special needs.”

While it may be surprising, he said, “homelessness is a real concern.”

“It becomes difficult to focus on your school work when you’re worried about where you’re going to sleep,” Thiboutot said. Winslow schools have 17 identified homeless students, but he expects there are more.

Because of the federal McKinney-Vento Act, homeless students have a right to attend their school of origin even if they move to a different area. The school then is required to provide transportation, which can get expensive.

This is something the school can’t predict or account for because “you never know” who is going to be homeless, Thiboutot said.

The district also contracts with Kennebec Behavioral Health, which is serving 50 Winslow students with problems such as anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Thiboutot asked the audience a series of question before speaking, including about how many of them grew up in poverty and how many of them grew up without a sense of direction. A number of people raised their hands.

“I suspect you all have a story about school — about a teacher, a coach, an administrator who touched you in some way, who inspired you,” he said.

Now those teachers are being asked to “do more with less,” he said, “and, frankly, it’s taken a toll on them.”

Town Councilor Ken Fletcher also spoke, saying that this is a “solvable problem.”

The Legislature has to do two things, he said: restore municipal revenue sharing to 5 percent, which he said would get Winslow $500,000 per year; and fund education at 55 percent, which would give Winslow more than $700,000.

“It’s simple,” he said. “We could make sure we’re doing all the right things because we manage the money very well … but we cannot keep raising property taxes to compensate.”

A man in the audience said it seemed as though the town was “shirting the responsibility.”

“I want textbooks for this gentleman here,” he said, motioning to junior high Principal Jason Briggs. Textbooks for some subjects at the junior high were cut again this year.

While he said he understood the long-term issue, “my point is we can only deal with what we deal with right now.”

“I doubt we’re going to get much help (in Augusta),” he said.

Town Councilor Jerry Quirion said that the local representatives for the area are having a town hall-style meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Waterville Senior High School, and they would listen if people showed up and told them what they wanted.

“We need your help. We need you to contact people to get the job done and stop making our children and others suffer,” Haley said, adding later, “Public schools are under attack in this country.”

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

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Twitter: @madelinestamour