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Proposed school budget up 3% in Cape Elizabeth

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Proposed school budget up 3% in Cape Elizabeth

CAPE ELIZABETH — Property owners could see a 50-cent increase in tax rates if a preliminary fiscal year 2013 school budget remains unchanged.

The budget presented to School Board members Tuesday night seeks a 2.9 percent spending increase of more than $611,000 to $21.73 million. Salary increases pegged at 2 percent for unionized employees account for $400,000 of the new spending, Superintendent of Schools Meredith Nadeau said.

Teachers are due a 2 percent raise as part of a three-year contract agreement reached last year, she said.

Contracts for food service workers, transportation staff, educational technicians, administrators and administrative staff all expire this year, Nadeau said. The fiscal year 2013 budget anticipates they will get the same salary increases as teachers.

At the same time, revenue decreases in the district include a reduction of $272,000 in state Essential Programs and Services subsidy. The schools can also no longer count on $452,000 in federal Jobs Bill aid from legislation passed in 2010; that funding expired in the current budget.

The revenue losses are offset by the use of $480,000 in accumulated Medicaid funds, Nadeau said. Last year, the schools covered the cost of providing reimbursable services for students with disabilities and set aside the Medicaid funds passed on by the state for use this year.

Nadeau said the method is comparable to using surplus fund balances to offset the revenue gap. As was the case in 2011, the school budget will also be funded by using $250,000 in district surplus funds.

She added the unspent Medicaid funds were especially helpful because she had not expected state EPS reductions to be as large as they are for the upcoming year.

Town Manager Michael McGovern estimated the proposed school budget for fiscal year 2013 would add 50 cents to the property tax rate, now $15.18 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The tax rate was reduced from $17.85 per $1,000 of assessed value in fiscal year 2011 because of a property revaluation completed last summer by Tax Assessor Matthew Sturgis.

Nadeau estimated the effect of the spending increase would lead to a $162 tax increase on a home with the town median value of $314,000.

McGovern said the municipal budget is still being prepared and its effect on the fiscal year 2013 tax rate is not yet known.

Crafting the budget was an experience designed to be "mindful of the financial climate," Nadeau said.

"We have a strong team in place here. I think it is a collaborative group and a friendly process," she said.

School Board members will review the proposed budget in three workshops this month, beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 6, at the Cape Elizabeth High School library.

More budget details and additional workshop dates are online at http://sg.sg/xR8Dbm.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow David on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.