Jan. 19—AUBURN — The Auburn school district has frozen most of their open positions until the end of the school year after attempts to fill them were unsuccessful.
The district, like many others in central Maine, has struggled to hire people for a variety of positions, including educational technicians, teachers, drivers and more, leading to difficult staffing shortages over the past two years.
The finance subcommittee approved a hiring freeze on about 70 to 75% of the open positions in response to a recommendation by Superintendent Cornelia Brown, Ward 4 representative Brian Belknap II said.
The positions total over $835,000 in salaries, money the district plans to use to help mitigate the impact of the 2023-24 school budget on taxpayers.
The district will continue trying to hire for some critical positions, specifically substitutes; van and bus drivers; a guidance counselor and a social studies teacher at Auburn Middle School; an autism teacher at Walton Elementary School; a home school liaison; and educational technicians at Edward Little High School, the middle school, Fairview Elementary School, Sherwood Heights Elementary School and Park Avenue Elementary School.
Positions that have been frozen include at least 11 teaching positions across various Auburn schools, a nurse at East Auburn Elementary School and some educational technician positions.
Officials say there are several reasons for holding the positions vacant. The school year is already half over, and some of the frozen positions may be eliminated in next year’s budget, according to the financial subcommittee meeting minutes.
It would be “difficult to hire individuals, only to see their positions eliminated a few months later,” the document reads.
Brown said there are no specific positions on the chopping block, but with a challenging budget process ahead, the School Committee may consider cutting staff positions to save money.
About 80% of the school budget is allocated for staff salaries and benefits, another 10% is fixed costs and the final 10% is discretionary spending, Brown said. Increases in salaries, health insurance and electricity, which Brown said is calculated to increase by about $400,000 on its own next year, all promise to make creating the budget particularly challenging this year.
“We all know this is going the be a really, really tough budget season, probably one of the toughest in my terms,” Belknap said.