Divided Cape Elizabeth council OKs budget, tax hike

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School spending plan goes to voters May 10

CAPE ELIZABETH — The Town Council on Monday adopted a $31.4 million fiscal 2012 budget.

Residents will vote on the school budget May 10.

The School Board’s $21.1 million budget was approved 5-1, with Councilor Jessica Sullivan opposed and Councilor Jim Walsh recused. The $8.9 municipal budget passed 5-2 with Sullivan and Councilor Caitlin Jordan opposed.

The total budget represents a 2.4 percent increase over this year. The proposed tax rate of $18.28 is an increase of 42 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

Sullivan said she could not support the budgets because they include employee pay raises. She said there have been no Social Security  cost-of-living increases in two years, no state employee raises in four years and some residents’ retirement savings have lost ground in the stock market.

“I’d like to see for at least one more year, raises just not given,” she said.

The municipal budget includes a 2 percent salary increase for employees and the school budget includes a 0.5 percent salary increase for teachers – first increase in a three-year contract with the Cape Elizabeth Education Association.

Jordan voted against the municipal budget after making a failed motion to amend the budget to prohibit the purchase of a $140,000 road grader for snow removal.

Councilors who supported the budget said it was fiscally responsible and prudent, and lauded town staff and the interim Superintendent of Schools Ken Murphy for their efforts.

Councilor Sara Lennon said it would be irresponsible to hold the line on wages when the cost of living increases each year. She said it was unreasonable for residents to expect a zero percent tax increase year after year and it was only fair to pay employees enough for them to live in a world of increased costs.

“I refute the notion that at baseline we should have zero percents each year and anything above that is a failure of our fiscal responsibility,” she said. “I disagree with the people who say we are not doing our job by increasing taxes. Everything else in the world is increasing and our property taxes have to increase to reflect that.”

Councilor Anne Swift-Kayatta said she was pleased with the budget process and the results. She said while she would like to maintain a zero percent tax increase for residents, the budget is fiscally prudent and supports infrastructure, current services, employees and staff.

Residents will vote on the school budget validation referendum on May 10 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Cape Elizabeth High School gymnasium.

Voters will also participate in a special District 7 election to replace state Sen. Larry Bliss, D-South Portland, whose seat represents Cape Elizabeth, South Portland and part of Scarborough.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @amy_k_anderson.