Cape budget hearing set for Monday

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Town Councilors will hear budget feedback from the public Monday, April 13, during a public hearing on the municipal and school budgets.

Debate is expected, especially surrounding the school budget and a proposal to move emergency dispatch services out of Cape.

The proposed school budget was recently dealt a blow by the state, which announced it would cut $500,000 in subsidy compared with this year. The School Board originally approved spending which, combined with the town’s expected budget, would have led to a propety tax rate increase of 8 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. This week, the board was forced to rethink its numbers, and cut $163,000 from the School Department’s contingency fund.

Despite that cut and an expected $200,000 influx from the town’s undesignated fund balance, the schools face a $137,000 shortfall, which would have to be made up by taxpayers, bringing the expected combined mil rate increase to 11 cents.

The most controversial municipal cut has so far been a proposed consolidation of emergency dispatch. The original proposal to move dispatch to the county drew a crowd of opponents at a public forum in January. The plan has since been altered to combine with Portland and South Portland.

The new proposal increases the initial savings by 22 cents per capita – a Portland/South Portland contract will charge $16 per capita and rise 3 percent each year, while the county was charging $16.22 – for a total program savings of $127,000 in the first year compared to the cost of maintaining local dispatch service.

The new proposal also has the backing of Police Chief Neil Williams and Fire Chief Peter Gleeson.

Five of seven councilors supported the consolidation when it was last discussed. Council Chairman Jim Rowe has been opposed because of a promise he made to keep dispatch local until at least 2011. Councilor Penny Jordan has said only that she could not support a change to county dispatch.

Other municipal cuts, which include reducing the facilities manager position to part-time, reducing neighborhood street lighting, eliminating funding for Family Fun Day and reducing volunteer recognition events, among other cuts, bring the budget down 3 percent from this year to a total of $8.5 million. Those cuts have not garnered much discussion at public forums or council meetings.

Following Monday’s public hearing the Town Council is set to approve the budget April 30. The school budget faces public validation in an election set for May 12.

Sarah Trent can be reached at 178-3661 ext. 108 or