I attended a recent budget presentation at the Scarborough Town Council, and left with more questions than answers.
The proposed school spending increases are fueling the need to raise property taxes at more than four times the inflation rate, but the exact details are fuzzy. In an age where transparency is the promise across all levels of government, the school budget presentation was bit of a shell game. Chief example is the wish to give every high school student a new laptop computer, at a cost of close to $1 million.
I’m not sure how many kids in town don’t have access to a computer, but it might be what? Dozens? Maybe they don’t have the “right” computers for school, or their machines won’t work with the network or software? Maybe there is a real need to spend $1 million this way. But instead of an explanation, it’s simply called “1-to-1 Technology” and buried in the Capital Improvement Plan.
Portable laptop computers given to teenagers are definitely not capital improvements. If a business tried to define a million-dollar expense this way, the IRS would likely be paying them a visit.
I’m not going to audit the school budget proposal line-by-line, but this one large item did catch my attention. Is it to avoid a referendum, as required in the Town Charter? Is there some other reason? The citizens of Scarborough deserve better than this. I ask town leaders to stop playing budget games, be realistic in your expectations, and transparent in your requests.