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Falmouth council OKs $34.9M budget, no tax increase

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Falmouth council OKs $34.9M budget, no tax increase

FALMOUTH — The Town Council unanimously approved a $34.9 million municipal and school budget after a public hearing Monday evening.

The budget, which avoids a property tax rate increase, includes $24.5 million for the school system, 1.63 percent less than last year.

That is still significantly better than the $1.9 million loss predicted for the district last fall, partially due to a tax valuation increase of 0.48 percent, which brought more than $88,000 back to the School Department.

The school spending plan now heads to a June 8 public referendum.

"Unlike most towns in the area, we are approving a budget that has no tax increase. This is a huge accomplishment," Councilor Bonny Rodden said. "I'm very proud of what this town has been able to accomplish."

While the councilors were supportive of the budget, two citizens who spoke at the hearing called for further reductions in the school budget.

"I think we are overpaying our teachers by $2 million," resident Michael Doyle said. "I recommend we vote against this budget and force the school committee to reassess the contract and reduce compensation to the entire teaching force."

Resident John Graustein also called for rejection of the budget and requested that the town hire an outside consultant to review School Department practices.

"We don't need Augusta and we don't need unions," Graustein said. "We can do this ourselves."

The school budget includes new fees for sports and extra-curricular activities, which are expected to bring in $167,000 to pay for the programs.

The budget also calls for the reduction of one first- and one fourth-grade teacher and three educational technicians, as well as reductions in staff development costs. The budget includes an estimated $40,000 savings from switching to a wood boiler for the high school and the new elementary school.

The council also voted unanimously to approve two questions for the June school budget validation referendum.

In the past, the ballot included a question that clarified the reason a resident voted yes or no on the budget, allowing voters to indicate whether the budget was too high or too low. This year, that question will not appear on the ballot.

Councilor Teresa Pierce explained that question is not necessary because the mil rate is flat.

However, in addition to the budget validation, the ballot will ask if residents want to continue the referendum process for another three years.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net