SCARBOROUGH — Changes to the proposed school and municipal budgets for fiscal year 2015 and the proposed dog leash ordinance are still works in progress after Wednesday night’s Town Council public hearings.
In the public hearing, Town Manager Tom Hall presented updated versions of the proposed budgets.
The most recent changes show a slight decrease on the school side, from $43.4 million in proposed expenditures to $43.3 million. Superintendent of Schools George Entwistle III attributed the $100,000 savings to “better-than-anticipated” health-insurance rate increases.
The new projections would require an 87-cent increase in the property tax rate, as opposed to a 99-cent increase, raising it to $15.64 per $1,000 of assessed value. The owner of a home valued at the town median, $300,000, would pay about $261 more in annual taxes.
Hall predicted more changes in coming weeks.
“I can’t stress enough how much this process is still ongoing,” he said.
Nearly 20 residents had comments, including several older residents who said they worry that annual tax increases will soon prove too much.
Walter Arsenault, a retired resident of Magnolia Lane, said his taxes went up $400 last year, and he expects they will rise an additional $300 this year.
“Seven-hundred dollars in two years is outrageously ridiculous,” he told the council. “There’s a lot of seniors in this town and you’re driving us out of town.”
The public hearings Wednesday were preceded Tuesday morning by a presentation of the school budget by Entwistle to the finance committee. Councilors at that meeting expressed frustration with a lack of budget coordination between the town and schools, noting particularly that vetting of the budget by the School Board finance committee is behind schedule.
“There’s different dynamics and the time frames kind of complicate things, so we’ll strive next year to change the dates a little bit to coincide the dates a bit better,” Councilor Jessica Holbrook said Tuesday.
Members of the School Board said Tuesday that they are hopeful they will be ready to present a final budget at their May 1 meeting, and that in the meantime they will continue discussions with the council.
“We’re trying to keep communications lines open,” School Board finance committee Chairman Chris Caiazzo said Tuesday.
Councilor Jean Marie Caterina remained unsatisfied Wednesday as she reflected on the finance committee meeting.
“We’ve got a lot of unfunded mandates,” Caterina said. “We really need to examine any portions of the budget that don’t contribute directly to the success of students, and I certainly encourage the School Board to ascertain how best we can invest in our children while balancing the strain put on citizens.”
A second reading of the school and municipal budget is set for May 7. The school budget then goes to a town referendum on May 13.
Although the public hearing on proposed amendments to dog leash laws existed mainly for councilors to take public comment, Chairman Richard Sullivan said he has been drafting new amendments to the proposal that he will offer on May 7.
“They’re an opportunity to try to come to a consensus on this issue in town, to try to compromise on it as best we can and to try to move on and get the town back on the right track,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan would not elaborate, but promised the proposed amendments would be made available to the public as soon as they are finalized.
“You’ll have to stay tuned,” Sullivan said.