LISBON — Lisbon School Department pitched a $17.8 million school budget for next fiscal year, which starts July 1, which would raise taxes 4% or $293,863.

According to Town Manager Diane Barnes, that could increase taxes $0.46 per $1,000 of assessed value, or $92 for a home assessed at $200,000.

The municipal budget hasn’t been finished yet but the most recent proposal would reduce the tax burden by $297,396.

Barnes expects the municipal budget could trigger a tax rate increase of 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed value due to the estimated loss in revenue. For a home assessed at $200,000 that would be an additional $30.

The town’s share of county taxes could increase taxes another $0.07 per $1,000 of assessed value or $14 for a home assessed at $200,000.

Superintendent Richard Green said the biggest budget increase is driven by $492,400 in special education costs and contractual salary and benefit increases totaling $481,483.

The school committee also proposes to add $176,000 to have two coaches or coordinators to help with student trauma and help keep kids in school.

There are still some unknown factors that could impact the budget, such as upcoming resignations. Additionally, Green said some parents have told him they won’t send their students back to school until there is a vaccine against the coronavirus.

“I don’t know how that’s going to impact us,” Green said.

While the school committee reduced the tax increase from 9% to 3.97%, the council wanted to see the school spending keep taxes flat.

“I’m really having a tough time with 4% or 3.97% with (the) school budget, not because I’m anti-school or anything else, it’s just that this is COVID time,” said Councilor Don Fellows.

The school district is slated to get an additional $480,078 in state aid. Councilor Fern Larochelle said he worries about the town overextending itself if the state cuts that funding.

“If there is a major curtailment in what the state actually puts out or what the town has to offer, has the school administration looked to see what plan B would be?” he said.

Green said he believes there will be a reduction in state aid, which is why he plans to freeze the 2020-21 budget. The school needs additional support for students coming back to school, he argued. Green said the school doesn’t know what kind of trauma or home life students have experienced. Between 15-25% of students haven’t participated in remote learning since school buildings closed to students in mid-March.

“I can’t emphasize enough, I wouldn’t be here asking for this money if we didn’t need it,” Green said. “We have kids who have gaps in their education.”

According to Barnes, the council is aiming to keep taxes flat in the municipal spending plan. She told the council Tuesday that the town is facing a $96,762 budget shortfall based on preliminary estimates for how much money the town will get from the state. The council will hold a hearing and vote on the municipal budget June 23.

Whatever school budget the council approves on June 16 will be used to set the town’s tax rate, regardless of whether it is approved by voters, “which is a pretty heavy burden,” council chairman Allen Ward said.

Green said the school committee will discuss the school budget further Monday night and expects to have additional direction from Ward by that time.

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