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Proposed $29.2 million Augusta school budget up for board vote Wednesday

AUGUSTA The proposed $29.2 million school budget, up by about $280,000 over the superintendent s initial budget proposal, goes to the school board for a vote Wednesday. Superintendent James Anastasio s initially proposed school budget totaled $28.9 million[1], which was about $740,000 less than the current year s budget.

Proposed .2 Million Augusta School Budget Up For Board Vote WednesdayJames Anastasio

However, in budget workshops since the budget was presented, school board members put items cut in Anastasio s proposal back into the budget, increasing it to just under $29.2 million. Positions cut but then returned to the budget by the board in the latest proposal total about $280,000 and include a school nurse at Cony High School at $71,000, a security guard at Cony at $27,000, and other positions, according to Kim Martin, chairwoman of the school board.

The board was very leery of cutting any direct service positions for our students, so the board added some positions back in, Martin said.

Also in the time since Anastasio first proposed a budget, the school department received a projection from the state of how much funding Augusta will get for its schools, although that figure could very well change as the state Legislature works on the state budget. The recently released state funding projects Augusta would get $12.8 million, an increase of $135,000 over what Anastasio included in the initial budget. So the increase in projected state funding covers some, but not all of the expenses added back into the budget by board members, leaving about $145,000 in additional funding which would come from local taxpayers.

Even before that change, the school budget, although it is lower than the current year s $29.6 million budget, would have required $600,000 more funding from local taxpayers next year. That s because the proposed budget takes less from the fund balance, or surplus, account than the current year s, leaving more of the funding burden to be covered by property taxes. With the restored cuts, the budget would now, if passed as proposed, require an additional $740,000 from taxpayers. The board is scheduled to vote on the budget at their 6 p.m. meeting Wednesday in council chambers at Augusta City Center.

Once the school budget is approved by the school board, it goes to the City Council to be included in the overall city and school budget. Councilors can, and often do, ask that the school board make changes to the budget before councilors vote on whether to approve the total city and school budget. The school budget must also be validated by voters in a citywide referendum scheduled for June 13. The school board is also scheduled to vote Wednesday on another proposal that would go to voters in June. The proposal is to seek residents permission for the board, if Augusta receives more state funding for education than the amount included in the budget, to use some or all of the additional funds. The board could use the money to add programming and its associated expenses back into the budget, and/or use the additional state funds to decrease the amount of money that would come from local property taxpayers. Martin said a new state law allows school systems, if they get more money from the state than anticipated in their budgets, to use additional amounts to help fund that year s budget. Martin said previously when that happened, the additional money couldn t be used if the local budget had already been passed, so the additional state money went into the fund balance account.

Keith Edwards 621-5647

[email protected][2]

Twitter: @kedwardskj[3]

References

  1. ^ initially proposed school budget totaled $28.9 million (www.centralmaine.com)
  2. ^ [email protected] (www.centralmaine.com)
  3. ^ @kedwardskj (twitter.com)

Trump Budget Slashes Coast Guard, Recruits Agents For Remote Maine Border Posts

Isolated outpost: The Coburn Gore U.S. border station in Franklin County, Maine, is surrounded by woods. (Photo by David Greenwood, Jones and Stokes. 2006)

Map of CBP Officer Duty Locations with Extra Pay Incentives Canada Watch: Customs and Border Patrol is offering a 25-percent boost in salary and extra incentives at 12 locations, including two on Maine s northwest border. (Map courtesy Dept. Homeland Security, CBP)

An early peek at the president s budget, which is expected to arrive in Congress on Thursday, March 16, indicates Trump wants to increase defense spending by $54 billion, including boosting border and immigration efforts by $5 billion.

He plans deep cuts to the Coast Guard budget, security and surveillance at airports and train stations, and community-level national disaster readiness for hurricanes and floods to help pay for it, according to internal White House documents that were first reported on by Politico last week. The increases include almost $3 billion to build Trump s impenetrable wall on the Mexico-U.S. border, plus another $1.9 billion to build immigration detention centers and transport illegals back to the border, according to the Washington Post. The U.S. Coast Guard, part of the Department of Homeland Security, would be cut by 14 percent a proposal that critics say will undermine coastal security and open up opportunities for increased drug smuggling and other organized criminal activity.

Maine, with 3,480 miles of coastline and roughly 3,000 islands, is home to over 600 active and reserve Coast Guard personnel and 55 staff, according to 2016 data available from Governing, a trade magazine for state and local government officials. Rep. Chellie Pingree and Sen. Angus King joined Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate who are opposed to the cuts. Pingree said the president s proposal was reckless and vowed she would not stand for cuts to either the Coast Guard or to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). King joined other senators in signing a letter to Trump budget officials expressing concern that the Coast Guard, which has seen budget cuts since 2010, would be unable to respond to individual and national emergencies or protect the nation s economic and environmental interests if further cuts are made.

Rep. Bruce Poliquin said he will wait to make a decision on whether to support cutting the Coast Guard budget. Sen. Susan Collins did not respond to a request for her position by press time. While cuts proposed to the Coast Guard loom, incentives are already in place to lure border patrol recruits to far-flung Maine border crossings. New hires with no experience can land $33,000 a year, plus a 25-percent locality increase and the opportunity for $35,000 in additional overtime pay, at only two locations in the Northeastern U.S. Jackman, Maine (population 862), and Coburn Gore, Maine (population 61, when all the 13 townships are included). Sleepy Coburn Gore has a prominent place in Maine history. A pre-traitorous Benedict Arnold led an inept military expedition through its buggy woods and a 12-mile canoe portage. Some of his men survived on candle wax and shoe leather before they arrived in Quebec after Arnold s bungled communications had tipped off the British. Arnold later switched allegiance and led the British in battle against Revolutionary troops he once commanded, which is why his name is now a byword for treason.

Trump s budget proposes to spend $285 million to hire about 10 percent of the 15,000 new border agents and immigration officers he ultimately wants to put in place, according to Politico.

Some of those jobs could be at Coburn Gore.

House backs bill to help Maine veterans caught up in Real ID dispute

Maine lawmakers gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a bill that ensures several hundred veterans can continue receiving medical care at a New Hampshire military base despite Maine s noncompliance with the federal Real ID law. The legislation, L.D. 213[1], would set aside $15,000 to pay for passport cards for veterans who, as of Feb. 1, have been unable to use their Maine driver s licenses to access a health clinic at Pease Air National Guard Base. An estimated 400 to 500 veterans from Maine use the VA health clinic in Portsmouth but are now potentially caught in the middle of a fight between the state and federal governments[2].

Related Headlines

House Backs Bill To Help Maine Veterans Caught Up In Real ID Dispute

Maine is one of a handful of states that have refused to comply with the federal Real ID law, which requires enhanced security features on driver s licenses. For most Mainers, Maine s refusal would only become an issue if the state remains noncompliant as of next January because that is when the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, will begin requiring all airline passengers to have Real IDs. But citizens without compliant ID cards are already being turned away[3] at military bases, nuclear facilities and some federal buildings.

The Maine veterans who use the New Hampshire facility can still receive medical care at another VA facility not located on a military base. But Rep. Jared Golden, the Lewiston Democrat who sponsored L.D. 213, said that could require some southern Maine veterans to drive much farther distances. Golden, a Marine veteran who serves as assistant majority leader in the Maine House, said he hopes the Legislature will approve a bill to fix the Real ID issue this year. But that bill likely may not take effect until September or October, and that s an awful long time for some of these vets to not be able to go to that facility. Golden s bill which passed the House on a 110-8 vote on Tuesday is an emergency measure that would become law immediately upon the governor s signature. The bill has already received preliminary approval in the Senate but requires a final vote.

The faster we move, the better because it is a problem right now for some of these folks, Golden said.

Golden s bill would help some of those veterans pay the fee to obtain a passport card, which is a wallet-sized card that can be used at U.S. border crossings with Canada and Mexico. Individuals without a Real ID-compliant driver s license can also use a regular U.S. passport, a military ID or another form of federal documentation to gain access to military bases and other restricted facilities. Federal officials insist the additional requirements under Real ID including federal access to a database of birth certificates and photographs that can be used with facial recognition technology are necessary to help thwart terrorism in the post-9/11 era. But Maine and at least four other states have refused to comply with the law, often citing civil liberties concerns. During a hearing last week on a bill to adopt Real ID standards in Maine, Secretary of State Matt Dunlap listed a number of instances where the U.S. government did overstep its bounds by using surveillance against its own citizens. Those included investigations into alleged communists during the McCarthyism era and surveillance of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dunlap also noted that the federal law allows the Department of Homeland Security to amend the rules at any time and without notice. Later, Homeland Security may well decide they also need a thumb print, maybe an iris scan, maybe a component that includes a DNA sequence, maybe a complete breakdown of your status and history as a voter, or whether or not you have a Class 3 federal firearms permit or whether you own any firearms at all, Dunlap said. Dunlap s office estimated that it will initially cost Maine taxpayers between $2 million and $3 million to comply with Real ID standards. But absent a legislative fix this year, Mainers may be unable to board a commercial flight[4] without a valid passport or passport card. The broader Real ID bill, L.D. 306, is awaiting legislative action.

References

  1. ^ L.D. 213 (legislature.maine.gov)
  2. ^ a fight between the state and federal governments (www.pressherald.com)
  3. ^ are already being turned away (www.pressherald.com)
  4. ^ may be unable to board a commercial flight (www.pressherald.com)
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