Cape Elizabeth officials unveil preliminary budgets

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The town manager and superintendent of schools last week introduced fiscal 2015 draft budgets worth $13.4 million and $23.2 million, respectively.

Town Manager Michael McGovern’s proposed budget, which does not include schools or community services, includes $9.3 million in general fund spending, up 2.8 percent from fiscal year 2014, plus a $1.1 million assessment from Cumberland County, $200,000 for the town’s share of the homestead exemption, and $2.86 million in special funds that aren’t directly supported by property taxes.

The proposed tax rate for municipal services is up 1 percent to a total of $3.58 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. General fund revenues would increase by $138,000, or 4.3 percent, for a total of $3.3 million.

“I had hoped to be able to provide a budget with no tax increase, but late news regarding retirement costs for our legacy plan caused a shift of about $80,000 in our outlook,” McGovern said in his budget message, noting that the 1-percent increase is below the rate of inflation.

The town’s 10-year capital improvement plan calls for an annual $100,000 increase in capital funding. That sum marks the biggest spending hike in the 2015 draft budget, raising the general fund appropriation to $900,000.

A $379,000 overlay from 2014 would bring capital spending to nearly $1.3 million, with the biggest projects to include $700,000 for roadway and drainage improvements, and $176,000 for a dump/plow truck replacement.

Other major impacts include a 2-percent salary increase for town personnel that will cost almost $90,500; an increase in employee health insurance premiums expected to cost an additional $70,000; and $157,000 in savings from ecomaine, the regional trash service, which recently announced it would eliminate assessment fees. The budget also designates $10,000 to celebrate the town’s 250th anniversary.

On the school side, Superintendent Meredith Nadeau projected an expenditure increase of 3 percent and a net increase to taxes of 2.2 percent. But she noted that undetermined factors that could change those figures include state revenue sharing, insurance increases, and negotiations with the teachers union.

Expansion of full-day kindergarten for all students 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.

The draft budget proposes a 3.6-percent increase in technology funding for a total of almost $245,000. That would help fund projects including the installation of whiteboard systems, the replacement of approximately 250 tablets for the schools’ iPad initiative and 26 machines in the middle school computer lab, as well as an overhaul of library software.

Capital requests include $69,000 to replace a 20-year-old boiler for Pond Cove Elementary School and the middle school, and an additional $35,000 for the lease of a bus for extracurricular and co-curricular activities.

The budget is framed in terms of the district’s five-year strategic plan and its four goals: providing a high-quality and comprehensive instructional program, cultivating an inclusive and supportive culture, increasing student engagement in learning and teacher engagement in instruction, and aligning the budget with strategic plan goals and resources.

“The (fiscal year 2015) budget proposal builds on the work of prior years and advances all four goals of the strategic plan,” Nadeau wrote in her budget message. “Some of the initiatives, such as the proposal for full-day kindergarten, will require additional funds, but others, such as the implementation of a breakfast program at Pond Cove have no fiscal impact but can significantly improve the educational experience for our students.”

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