Cape Elizabeth Town Council sets April 29 budget hearing

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CAPE ELIZABETH — After the School Board presented its proposed fiscal 2014 spending plan April 10, the Town Council set the public hearing schedule for the combined $33.2 million municipal and school budgets.

The council will hold a public hearing and vote on budget adoption April 29 at 7 p.m., at Town Hall.

The budget includes spending hikes for both the town and schools, a total 3.5 percent budget increase.

The $22.5 school budget accounts for most of the spending.

Much of the increase for the School Department will offset losses in state revenue. The largest decrease in funding, aside from receiving almost $200,000 less in state aid, is a potential shift of $300,000 in retirement costs to the district from the state.

According to school budget figures, the department is expecting to pay about $1.8 million in new retirement costs, raising what would have been a 2.1 percent increase to 3.5 percent. The actual amount the district will have to pay for retirement likely won’t be known until late in the legislative process.

Another increase in the school budget stems from a decision by the School Board to increase the contingency fund by $40,000 to $140,000 per year. Board members said the increase is intended to help offset potential state cuts or added costs, and will reduce the severity of tax hikes in the future.

The School Department is also piloting a full-day kindergarten program next year. The program will include two classes at Pond Cove Elementary School, with four half-day sessions using existing staff.

The 30 kindergartners who will participate in the program will be chosen from a lottery system. Currently, Pond Cove serves 100 kindergartners.

And although the program will be added at no cost next year, if it’s successful, it may become an additional expense in the fiscal 2015 budget.

School departments across Maine that don’t currently have full-day kindergarten may be forced to expand their programming if a bill currently in front of the Legislature passes.

The bill, L.D. 1143, sponsored by Rep. Mary Nelson, D-Falmouth, would require all districts in the state to have full-day kindergarten by 2017.

On the town side, the budget would increase by about 2.4 percent to $9 million.

The largest increase in spending comes from costs to make up previous years of underfunding the per-diem daytime rescue personnel and an increase of $100,000 for capital needs.

Although unlikely, the town could see a larger increase if Gov. Paul LePage’s curtailments make it through the Legislature untouched.

The town is assuming the Legislature will reject the elimination of municipal revenue sharing proposed by LePage’s budget, which would account for $640,000, about an $8,000 increase from this year.

The school budget validation referendum is scheduled for May 14.

Will Graff can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @W_C_Graff.