Thursday, April 17, 2014
Westbrook school officials have put nine positions back into the department's 2012-13 budget, which initially called for a net reduction of 21 full- and part-time jobs.
Three high school teachers, a school resource officer and a guidance counselor are among the positions that are no longer targeted for cuts in the $31 million budget, which the School Committee unanimously supported Wednesday night.
The committee will take its final vote April 11 on the budget, which now calls for the elimination of 26 positions, including 10 full-time teachers, and the addition of 14 positions, including two assistant principals.
Superintendent Marc Gousse said he doesn't yet know how many people will lose their jobs because of the cuts, but, "I do not see a significant impact on our existing staff."
"I believe much of the reduction in force will be able to be mitigated through shifting and retirements," he said.
So far, Gousse said, nine teachers, an administrator and five other staff members have decided to retire when this school year ends.
The budget needs approval from the City Council before it goes to a referendum, which is scheduled for June 12.
The $31 million budget for the year that starts July 1, which is less than 1 percent higher than the current budget, does not include adult education because that is voted on separately, Gousse said.
Including adult education, he said, the budget would increase the school portion of the property tax rate by 2.4 percent, which would add about $78 to the tax bill for the typical $190,000 home in Westbrook.
Declining enrollment and the closure of the Prides Corner Elementary School, which the School Committee approved last month, prompted several of the proposed job cuts, Gousse said.
In other cases, educational technicians are proposed to replace full-time teachers, including those for alternative learning and literature and math labs, he said.
In addition to jobs, the budget proposes to eliminate funding for freshman athletics, a $25,000 savings.
According to a memorandum from Athletic Director Todd Sampson, cutting the program "will have little to no impact on the student-athletes," because baseball was the only sport that had enough players for a freshman team.
Although funding was restored for the high school resource officer – a cost that's shared with the police department – the middle school resource officer is still among the positions to be cut.
Gousse said that adding an administrator to the middle school, which will house fifth-graders for the first time next year, will help make up for not having a police officer on duty.
"We can call a police officer. We can't call an assistant principal," he said.
Since Gousse made his initial $31.6 million budget proposal, the school department has learned that health insurance costs will be lower than projected. Also, the school department expects more revenue for out-of-town students at the Westbrook Regional Vocational Center and more reimbursement from the state for running educational programs at Spring Harbor Hospital.
"I didn't think we'd be under 1 percent, but we are," School Committee Chairman Ed Symbol said of the proposed increase in the budget.
He credited the administration for starting to work on the budget "way, way ahead of time."
Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: