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Scarborough council adds $100K to school budget

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Scarborough council adds $100K to school budget

SCARBOROUGH — The Town Council voted unanimously Monday to add $100,000 to the school budget after voters narrowly rejected a $34.9 million budget on May 11.

After a public hearing and second reading on June 2, the budget will go back to voters for a second validation referendum on June 8.

The added funds, recommended by the School Board, will come from the Teacher Accrual Account, which is an emergency fund that would be used to pay teacher salaries between the end of the fiscal year and the beginning of the school year in the event of a permanent school closure.

It would not affect the 3.95 percent tax increase currently included in the budget.

"If it passes, this will go to salary lines," School Board Chairman Brian Dell'Olio said.

The budget currently calls for approximately 30 full-time equivalent positions to be cut, but Dell'Olio said the reallocation of these funds will allow for some of those positions to be reinstated. He said the School Board will not decide which positions to reinstate until after the referendum vote.

"In theory, $100,000 should buy you back two positions," Dell'Olio said.

This decision comes on top of $106,000 in undesignated funds already returned to the school budget after the council rejected a proposed capital improvement project to purchase laptops for all high school students.

Conversation during the May 24 council meeting was dominated by interpretation of the referendum vote, which came down to 493 people voting against the budget and 483 voting in favor.

"I know there's been a lot of interpretation of the results. I don't think 987 votes is a slam dunk in terms of what folks want," Councilor Judith Roy said. "In the primaries, more results will come out."

The interpretation was made by extrapolating from the responses voters gave to the question of whether the budget was too high or too low. Of the 493 people who voted against the budget, 340 said it was too high and 153 said it was too low. Of those who voted to approve the budget, 46 said it was too high and 337 said it was too low.

"I think the voters were very clear," Councilor Karen D'Andrea said of the more than 100-vote margin describing the budget as too low. "I don't think we can discount that at all."

The School Board also asked the council to consider adding $100,000 from the town's undesignated fund balance, or "rainy-day fund," to offset the tax rate, effectively lowering it to a 3.7 percent increase.

"Next year will be challenging, more challenging," Councilor Michael Wood said. "If that $100,000 was earmarked for the education budget, I'd be in favor."

D'Andrea was the only councilor to support transferring the rainy-day funds.

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