Cape Elizabeth council OKs municipal, school budgets, 3.2% tax hike

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Town Council on Monday approved a $34.2 million combined municipal and school budget, which could raise property taxes by 3.2 percent and increase the town’s mil rate to $16.70 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The budget includes $9.2 million for town services, $23.2 million for the School Department, $465,000 for community services, and a $1.1 million assessment from Cumberland County.

The largest expenditures in the municipal budget, up 2.2 percent over fiscal year 2014, include: $1.2 million for the Police Department, $1.1 million for public works, $1.1 million for employee benefits, and $900,000 for capital projects, including $700,000 for roadway, paving and drainage projects, and $176,000 for dump and plow truck replacements.

Expansion of full-day kindergarten to include all students highlights the school budget for fiscal year 2015. That process is expected to have a one-time cost of $100,000, although a reduction in fuel costs for midday bus runs could save about $10,000.

Residents will vote in a June 10 referendum on the school budget, which is up 3 percent.

“My hat is off to the work that’s been done,” Councilor Jim Walsh said of the school budget process. “It’s a pretty solid plan, and I think with full-time kindergarten being employed, a real step forward in the town of Cape Elizabeth.”

No one spoke during a public hearing on the budget. There was also very little discussion among councilors prior to voting, though Councilor Jamie Wagner reminded the audience that they have been meeting for months to discuss budget details.

“This is the end of a long process,” Wagner said.

With an eye toward the future, Chairwoman Jessica Sullivan suggested the creation of a 10-year capital plan and 10-year finance plan. She noted that over the past 10 years, the municipal and school budgets have increased annually by an average of 2.55 percent and 3.49 percent, respectively.

“It concerns me that some of these increases are going to be difficult to sustain over the years with our aging population,” Sullivan said. 

The council also voted unanimously to refinance up to nearly $4.4 million worth of debt from school bonds issued in 2004 and 2005. The town estimates the move will save $450,000 over 10 years, from fiscal years 2015 to 2025.

Brendan Twist can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @brendantwist.