WESTBROOK — The proposed school budget in Westbrook recommends cutting 53 positions, including 22 full-time teachers, and all middle school and freshman athletic programs to address a $3.7 million budget shortfall.

The staff and program cuts in the budget, which was put together by Superintendent Reza Namin before he resigned earlier this month, will be the subject of a public hearing next week before the School Committee’s Finance Committee.

Interim Superintendent Marc Gousse presented Namin’s $33.7 million budget to the Finance Committee three days after the school board named him to the position.

Gousse said the proposed cuts would cause “the systematic dismantlement of public education in Westbrook.”

“This is not bare-bones. This is devastating,” he said Wednesday.

Gousse, Westbrook High School’s principal for the past 10 years, said unavoidable expenses, including contracted salary increases and utility costs, account for the 2011-12 budget’s increase over this year’s $32.2 million.

Finance Committee Chairman Alex Stone said the district expects about $30 million in revenue for the year starting July 1, which is $3.7 million less than it needs to cover expenses. Namin’s proposed cuts, totaling $3.2 million, wouldn’t completely close the gap.

Gousse said he didn’t know the effect the budget would have on the city’s property tax rate, with or without the cuts. He deferred questions to Dawn Ouellette, chief financial officer for the city and the school department, who could not be reached Wednesday.

The first public hearing on the proposed budget will begin at 7 p.m. next Wednesday at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center. Another hearing will be held April 13, if needed.

Among the positions targeted for cuts are six teachers in the city’s four elementary schools, nine full-time and four part-time teachers at the middle school, and seven full-time and one part-time teacher at the high school.

Under the proposal, no middle school or freshman sports teams, or the ice hockey program, would receive funding. Field trips districtwide and stipends for teachers who supervise activities, such as the chess club and yearbook, also would be eliminated.

“It’s sickening,” Stone said.

He said he doesn’t want to increase taxes or make the proposed cuts, “but one of those is going to happen.”

The School Committee is expected to adopt the budget on April 27. Residents will vote on that budget June 7.

One position that Gousse has already eliminated is the director of facilities, maintenance and transportation, which saves about $100,000 in salary and benefits, he said. Also, the city and school technology director has resigned effective April 15. Gousse said he and City Administrator Jerre Bryant are discussing how to fill that position.

“We’ve got some more restructuring to do,” he said.

Namin, who was hired to be superintendent of the Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District in central Massachusetts, has said he decided to leave Westbrook to be closer to his wife’s ailing father. He will be paid through the end of June.

Gousse, who earns about $97,000 a year as the high school principal, will not receive a pay increase until July. He signed a contract to serve as interim superintendent through June 2012.

Gousse said Wednesday that he plans to nominate Jon Ross, the district’s director of adult and alternative education, to be high school principal for the rest of this school year.

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

[email protected]


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