CAPE ELIZABETH — Voters on Tuesday authorized spending $1.4 million to upgrade the town’s Recycling Center, and also approved a $24.3 million school budget.
The Recycling Center referendum was approved 685-530 in the June 14 vote. According to the town website, voter turnout was 13 percent of the town’s 7,800 registered voters.
The Town Council in February approved the plan to upgrade the Recycling Center, but it had to also be approved by voters because, under the Town Charter, councilors can’t unilaterally approve expenditures of more than $1 million.
The upgrades were recommended by the Solid Waste and Recycling Long Range Planning Committee, which was formed in December 2014 to find a solution for improving safety and traffic flow at the center.
Town Councilor Jamie Garvin, who served on the planning committee, said he’s happy the upgrades will happen.
“I’m very pleased,” he said. “The committee’s recommendation was unanimous. It really meets the town’s needs going forward.”
The push for increased safety followed the death of former Public Works Director Herbert Dennison, who was killed Nov. 24, 2014, when he was knocked into the center’s two-story trash hopper by a car backing up to the hopper.
The committee recommended that the hopper building be used for electronic waste, an office, the town’s radio communications system, and for stationary outdoor trash compactors for residents to use. There will be multiple lanes for forward-moving traffic only at the compactors, where residents will dispose of trash and recyclables.
There will also be a bypass lane for residents who want to proceed to the Swap Shop, Bottle Shed, or other areas at the center, and traffic islands to separate the Swap Shop and Bottle Shed from traffic leaving the center.
Garvin said it’s “unlikely” that work will begin on upgrading the Recycling Center this year. He said the hope is that the work will be done by next spring or summer.
The $24.3 million school budget passed 778-430, and residents also approved continuing the budget validation process by a vote of 971-218.
In an advisory question, 548 voters said the proposed budget was acceptable, 500 said it was too high, and 129 said it was too low.
The fiscal year 2017 budget is an increase of almost $742,000, or 3.2 percent over the current year.
Staff costs and benefits make up the largest part of the budget increase – 82 percent – due to raises in staff salaries of between 2 and 2.5 percent.
Revenue declined 10.7 percent, due largely to a reduction in state aid. The Department of Education in January estimated that Cape Elizabeth would receive a state subsidy of $2.43 million, which is a decline of 29 percent from this year, according to the town website. Factors contributing to the state’s decision include Cape Elizabeth’s rising property values and declining school enrollment.
According to the town website, 25 fewer students are expected to attend Cape Elizabeth schools next year.