3% school budget hike goes to Cape Elizabeth council

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Worries about future losses in state funding led School Board members to add $30,000 to a contingency fund when they approved the fiscal 2013 budget Tuesday night.

The addition was the only substantive change to the $21.7 million preliminary budget introduced by Superintendent Meredith Nadeau last month, and allows her to present the budget to town councilors on Tuesday, April 3.

The proposed budget presents about a 3 percent increase, and a property tax increase of 52 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

A 52-cent increase on the town tax rate of $15.18 per $1,000 of assessed value would result in an approximate $165 tax increase on a home with the town median value of $314,000.

The board was unanimous in support of the budget, which Chairwoman Mary Townsend called “a fiscally responsible and a really exciting budget.”

Nadeau said the School Department was confronted with the loss of $452,000 in federal Jobs Bill money from legislation enacted in 2010.

The department also lost about $272,000 in state Essential Programs and Services funding, but was able to offset the revenue decreases with the use of $480,000 in accumulated Medicaid funds.

The district will also use $250,000 in undesignated surplus for operations next year. The contingency fund will be $100,000, Nadeau said.

The proposed budget calls for $611,000 in new spending, with about $400,000 of the spending going to district employee salary and benefits. In the second year of a three-year contract, teachers will receive a 2 percent raise.

Two percent has also been estimated as the increase for other unionized employees whose contracts expire at the end of June.

In a two-hour workshop and meeting Tuesday, board members warned that the School Department should not be expecting increases in state subsidies in the future.

Member David Hillman said he would like to see more transparency in the process used by the Maine Department of Education to decide subsidy formulas.

“But I don’t think transparency will work in our favor,” Hillman said.

Details about the fiscal year 2013 school budget can be found at http://sg.sg/xR8Dbm.

Town councilors cannot alter specific line items set in the budget, but after it is presented next week, the budget will be subject to public hearings on April 12 and 26.

A Town Council vote on forwarding the school budget to a public referendum is scheduled for April 26. The budget referendum will be held June 12.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow David on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.