Election 2016: Cape Elizabeth weighs Recycling Center renovations, school budget

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Voters on June 14 will decide whether to authorize $1.4 million for upgrades to the Recycling Center.

The proposed school budget of $24.3 million is also going to referendum.

The Town Council in February approved the plan to upgrade the Recycling Center, but it must be approved by voters because, under the Town Charter, councilors can’t unilaterally approve expenditures of more than $1 million.

The upgrades were recommended by the Solid Waste and Recycling Long Range Planning Committee, which was formed in December 2014 to find a solution for improving safety and traffic flow at the center.

The push for increased safety followed the death of former Public Works Director Herbert Dennison, who was killed Nov. 24, 2014, when he was knocked into the center’s two-story trash hopper by a car backing up to the hopper.

The committee recommends that the hopper building be used for electronic waste, an office, the town’s radio communications system, and for stationary outdoor trash compactors for residents to use. There would be multiple lanes for forward-moving traffic only at the compactors, where residents could dispose of trash and recyclables.

There would also be a bypass lane for residents who want to proceed to the Swap Shop, Bottle Shed, or other areas at the center, and traffic islands to separate the Swap Shop and Bottle Shed from traffic leaving the center.

School budget

The $24.3 million school budget for fiscal year 2017, which was approved by the School Board April 12, includes an increase of almost $742,000, or 3.2 percent over the current year. The Town Council on May 19 approved the budget 4-2, with Councilors Kathy Ray and Jessica Sullivan opposed and Councilor Caitlin Jordan absent.

Staff costs and benefits make up the largest part of the budget increase – 82 percent – due to raises in staff salaries of between 2 and 2.5 percent.

Revenue is projected to decline 10.7 percent, due largely to a reduction in state aid. The Department of Education in January estimated that Cape Elizabeth would receive a state subsidy of $2.43 million, which is a decline of 29 percent from this year, according to the town website. Factors contributing to the state’s decision include Cape Elizabeth’s rising property values and declining school enrollment.

According to the town website, 25 fewer students are expected to attend Cape Elizabeth schools next year.

Voters will also be asked questions about the budget, including whether to continue the budget validation referendum process for another three years. They will also be asked an advisory question of whether the budget is too high, too low, or acceptable.

Voting will take place June 14 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Cape Elizabeth High School.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.