Falmouth approves school budget, Route 100 project

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FALMOUTH — Voters by wide margins Tuesday approved financing the rebuilding of Route 100 in West Falmouth, and the annual School Department operating budget.

Voters also agreed to continue to vote on the school budget for another three years.

Also on the ballot were uncontested races for town office and state legislative primaries.

About an hour before the polls closed, Town Clerk Ellen Planner said turnout was “slowly steady.” She said given the fact that the races for Town Council, School Board, and state Legislature primaries were uncontested, the turnout had been “surprisingly good.”

“Falmouth is very responsible in getting out to vote,” she said. Planner added that interest in rebuilding Route 100 and continued interest in the school budget each year likely helped bring people out.

The final vote for revamping Route 100 was 1,295 to 420, roughly a 3-1 margin. The approved projects allow the town to spend up to $10.5 million on the project.

Up to $4 million will come from the Maine Department of Transportation, because Route 100 is a state-owned road. The town will borrow no more than $6 million and the remainder will be paid for with a portion of current and projected fund balances in the West Falmouth Crossing Tax Increment Financing District, which has been extended five years.

Total estimated debt service on the bond is nearly $7.2 million. The project would likely go out to bid in summer 2017, with construction slated to begin that fall and wrapping up in fall 2018.

Components of the redevelopment project include intersection improvements, adding bicycle lanes from the Portland city line to Libby Bridge, rebuilding the road from Leighton Road to Libby Bridge, adding stretches of continuous sidewalks, and improving street lighting.

School budget

The approved school budget for fiscal year 2017 is nearly $35 million, an increase $1.75 million, or 5.3 percent, over the current budget. Unofficial results showed it passed 1,301 to 395, more than a 3-1 margin.

The school portion of the property tax rate would increase 3.5 percent to $11.41 per $1,000 of assessed value, compared with $10.98 this year, or an increase of $43 for every $100,000 of assessed value. This would mean an additional $174 in taxes for a home valued at $400,000.

The budget also begins to phase out a pay-to-participate policy for sports and co-curricular activities. Families now pay a fee per sport per student. The budget calls for a single fee that would give a student access to all sports, and a $25 fee for a student to have access to all co-curricular activities.

Voters approved continuing the budget validation referendum for an additional three years, 1,303 to 373. Had the measure been defeated, approval and adoption of the school budget would have been left to the town’s elected officials.

Uncontested races

There were several uncontested races for local offices and state legislative primaries. Two newcomers are headed to the Town Council, along with as one incumbent.

Councilor Claudia King was elected to a second term, with 1,261 votes, while Andrea Ferrante and Aaron Svedlow both won their first terms on the council, receiving 1,209 and 1,169 votes, respectively. Council Chairman David Goldberg and Vice Chairman Russell Anderson opted not to seek second terms.

On the School Board, incumbent Caryn Bickerstaff was returned for a second term after running unopposed. Newcomer Jennifer Libby was elected, after incumbent Clare Harrington chose not to run again. Libby was also unopposed.

William Lunt III was elected Portland Water District trustee for Falmouth and Cumberland; he ran unopposed.

In state Senate District 25 – which includes Chebeague Island, Cumberland, Falmouth, Gray, Long Island, Yarmouth and part of Westbrook – incumbent Sen. Catherine Breen, D-Falmouth, did not have a challenger in her party’s primary. Falmouth Republican Bart Ladd was also unchallenged.

In House District 43, which covers part of Falmouth and part of Portland, Democrat Heather Sanborn and Republican Jeffrey Langholtz were both unopposed in their respective primaries.

In House District 44, which covers most of Falmouth, neither incumbent state Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth, nor Falmouth Republican Erin Mancini faced challengers.

The general election for the state legislative races is on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.