WESTBROOK–City voters on June 8 will be asked whether they want to approve the new $33 million 2010-2011 school budget.

The budget is $2,000 less than this year’s budget, and doesn’t raise taxes or involve any layoffs, according to School Committee Chairman Ed Symbol.

He said that Westbrook has been able to present such a budget in the economic recession because of wise fiscal measures that the city’s schools have employed over the last decade. He cited consolidation of school and city positions to save costs, and a gradual reduction in school positions if they were no longer needed whenever staff retired.

Symbol said he believes the budget “speaks loudly to what we’ve been doing.”

The School Committee last month had sent a $33.2 million school budget to the City Council. However, Mayor Colleen Hilton asked the School Committee to cut approximately $200,000 from the budget so as not to increase the city’s tax rate of $16.70 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The School Committee voted unanimously on May 12 to make that cut.

The proposed municipal budget of $20.9 million also would entail no tax increase.

The entire proposed city budget – which includes the school budget, the municipal budget and $1 million in taxes to Cumberland County – totals $54.9 million.

The council’s Finance Committee heard a presentation of the school budget on Monday. The Finance Committee is made up of all City Council members.

At the meeting, according to City Councilor John O’Hara, “we made no changes in the school budget.”

The next step in the budget process is the first reading of the city budget by the City Council. City Administrator Jerre Bryant said the first reading is scheduled for the council meeting on Monday, May 24.

Then, a budget public hearing and the council’s second reading and vote on the budget must take place. The public hearing and vote are scheduled for June 7, Bryant said.

By state law, voters must approve the school portion of the budget. That budget goes to the polls on June 8.

O’Hara agreed with Symbol that restructuring of staff positions and other fiscal measures have aided the city during a time when communities statewide are seeing reductions in state aid and other revenues.

“We’ve certainly done our homework the past few budget cycles and this time it’s starting to pay off,” O’Hara said.

At the School Committee meeting last week, only one resident spoke on the budget.

Trina Couture, a parent, said she was concerned about the planned elimination of one of the two assistant principal positions at the high school.

Eliminating that job is part of larger school administrative restructuring plan that the School Committee recently approved. The plan will save $184,000, resulting in a new school budget that is $2,000 less than this year’s budget.

One of the high school assistant principals will become dean of curriculum at the middle school. The other assistant principal’s job will undergo a slight change. That assistant principal also will get a new title: dean of students at the high school.

Couture said the two assistant principals provide important services and support to students, and are already overbooked.

“How’s that going to be when there’s one?” she asked. “It is really worth it?”

School Superintendent Reza Namin said after the meeting that that there won’t be a reduction of services to students because the duties of the assistant principal will be reallocated to existing staff.


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