On April 5, the Scarborough Town Council unanimously approved the first reading of a fiscal 2018 budget that calls for a tax increase of between 6 and 7 percent. Despite the assertions of several of the councilors, this is not a happy place to be.
Once again the school budget is driving an out-sized tax increase. It calls for a nearly 10 percent increase in taxpayer funding of the schools.
The sources of this eye-popping increase are a reduction in state education aid and the unrelenting growth of school expenses. The trend of decreasing state aid has been obvious for several years. Yet the School Board has accelerated expenses at a rate far in excess of inflation – while enrollment has been flat or declining.
It is the Town Council’s responsibility to rein in the school budget growth. But the council refuses to exercise that responsibility. Thus we have tax increases that are increasingly unaffordable for many Scarborough residents.
Fortunately, voters will have the last word on the school budget when we vote on it at the June 13 referendum. In the meantime, residents should let the Town Council know now is the time for financial prudence.