Cape Elizabeth School Board warned about possibility of layoffs; opposes Questions 2, 4

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CAPE ELIZABETH — School Board members reacted stoically Oct. 13 to news of impending subsidy cuts.

Superintendent Alan Hawkins, repeating what he told a reporter last week, told the board he expects Cape Elizabeth’s state education subsidy to be cut by at least $421,000 and maybe as much as $800,000.

Although he has frozen spending on everything but teacher salaries, benefits and absolute essentials for education, Hawkins said he expects to save only between $30,000 and $40,000.

“No matter what I freeze, we will not come close to the $421,000, let alone $800,000,” he said.

Hawkins said while there is nearly $70,000 in a contingency account, the board will face difficult decisions and he is “extremely concerned.”

“I may at some point this year look at cutting staff,” he said.

Rebecca Millett was the only board member who responded to Hawkins. She said she didn’t want to make the situation seem worse than it is, but a huge deficit in state funding for education is going to affect Cape Elizabeth.

“It is not a good reason to think we will get more money from the state because our property value has declined,” Millett said. “I want to make it clear that we are not getting more money next year, we are getting less.”

Student representative Julia Springer said the Student Council expressed interest in contributing to the discussion during budget season. Since the students are physically in the building and take part in the activities, she said they have a good idea of which programs should be retained or eliminated.

“There are no simple answers and not a lot of information at this time,” Hawkins said, noting that he expects to find out more after the Nov. 3 elections.

In other business, the board voted to unanimously oppose Question 2 and Question 4 on the statewide Nov. 3 ballot.

If passed, Question 2 would reduce the motor vehicle excise tax and provide tax exemptions for owners of newer, energy-efficient vehicles. But board members said the referendum would cost Cape Elizabeth nearly $758,000 in revenue that would normally fund road maintenance. The lost revenue would have to be made up through an increase in property taxes and by making cuts to town and school services and staff. They said the property tax increase would be 57 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

Question 4 would limit state and local spending. Any spending above current levels would be left to the voters to decide in a referendum vote.

Board member Peter Cotter said although some residents within the southern areas of the state are against Tabor II, residents in more rural parts of the state may vote differently. He said while he believes Cape officials have been frugal, other communities may not agree with their representatives.

“I don’t think we’ve done enough planning to decide what we’d have to be forced to do if they passed these referendums,” he said.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or