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– Auburn school budget proposal would increase property tax rate by 58 cents

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AUBURN — Superintendent Cornelia Brown presented a proposed $54.4 million budget Wednesday to the Auburn School Committee, a 12.6% increase to current spending.

The proposed hike is linked in large part to construction of the new Edward Little High School.

Of the $6.6 million increase, $4.2 million would pay loans for the $104.7 million school. Voters approved the $122 million project, of which the state is paying a majority, in 2019. The school is expected to open in 2023.

The proposed spending plan would boost taxes by 58 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or $87 on property assessed at $150,000.

Auburn Middle School Principal Bob Griffin proposed removing the social and emotional learning interventionalist position, which is vacant, and adding a band and instrumental music teacher.

The band teacher works at the middle school and five elementary schools. A second teacher would enable the district to spilt the responsibilities and create additional musical opportunities for students from kindergarten to eighth grade, according to Griffin.

The middle school band has 20 students, which Griffin said would be expected to increase with additional music instruction.

“It would really work to build a much more robust and wonderful (music) program for the high school,” Griffin said. “I believe the addition of that position would benefit the whole district.”

He said staff members, including two counselors, a social worker and an academic interventionalist, would be able to absorb the responsibilities of the social and emotional interventionalist position, which was added recently.

“I believe it’s incredibly important, and I look particularly at middle school,” Griffin said. “I believe we are doing a very good thing with how we’re doing that.”

He also proposed taking over the city’s middle school recreational football program.

“This could be done for a relatively small cost,” Griffin said. “I think it would provide an opportunity for more students in Auburn to participate in football, and that’s for both our boys and girls.”

Students on school teams do not have to pay fees to participate in school sports, while the Auburn Recreation Department charges participation fees, he said.

Griffin has requested money to pay a stipend for an adviser to create an LGBTQ alliance organization and buy pottery wheels for the art department.

At the high school, Principal Scott Annear has requested additional funding for athletic transportation, officials’ costs, staff development and moving materials from the old high school to the new building.

Eighty percent of the total budget is personnel costs, including salaries, health insurance and benefits, Brown said.

In other matters, the School Committee voted unanimously to reduce — to $400,000 from $500,000 — the fee for the naming rights to the new Edward Little High School auditorium.

“The only group that has come up to us with such a significant amount can come up with $400,000,” Ward 2 representative Pamela Hart said. “That’s why I’m asking the School Committee to lower the amount, so we can offer it to them.”

The naming fee was originally $1 million, and later reduced to $500,000.

The group offering $400,000 has already donated $100,000 to fund student scholarships, according to Hart.

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