SCARBOROUGH — More than 100 residents packed the standing-room-only Town Council Chambers for the first public hearing Thursday, Feb. 25, on Superintendent David Doyle’s proposed $34.3 million School Department budget.
The proposal for fiscal 2011 would eliminate 43 jobs to help reduce the current $35.1 million budget by nearly $786,000.
A vote to accept the first reading of the budget was 6-0. Coleen Staszno was absent.
Several residents said they would be willing to pay an increase in property taxes to avoid cuts.
But according to Finance Committee Chairman Robert Mitchell, the tax increase would have to be 10.25 percent to keep from making cuts.
As proposed, the budget would require a 3.9 percent increase in taxes, Mitchell said.
The proposed budget recommends cutting 39 full-time equivalent teachers and staffers on the instructional side and four full-time equivalent staff members in other areas. That would reduce total employment from 501 to 458.
In kindergarten through second grade the job cuts would include a classroom teacher, a physical education teacher and a guidance counselor; three half-time library educational technicians; a part-time art teacher and a part-time music teacher.
At Wentworth School, grades three to five, three homeroom teachers and two foreign language teachers would be cut, which would eliminate the entire foreign language program at that school. A part- time physical education teacher and a part-time art teacher would be also be cut, and a full-time and a part-time music teacher would be cut. Two ed techs would be cut, too.
At Scarborough Middle School, three homeroom teachers, a foreign language teacher, an art teacher, a health teacher and a physical education teacher would be eliminated. A part-time music teacher and an ed tech would also be cut.
At the high school, an English teacher and a history teacher would be cut. Also, a library ed tech, a secretary, a half-time visual art teacher and full- and half-time ed techs could lose their jobs.
Two bus drivers would be eliminated, and a full-time assistant transportation supervisor would be reduced to half time.
Mitchell said Scarborough is expected to lose $1.5 million in state revenue in next year’s budget. That’s on top of the loss of $1.1 million for the current year. Mitchell said $600,000 of this year’s shortfall was replaced with surplus funds, leaving the surplus at $250,000.
State Rep. Sean Flaherty, D – Scarborough, said “Scarborough was one of the hardest hit” by the state’s revenue shortfall.
Tim Coombs spoke against a recommendation to charge students to participate in extracurricular activities. Students, he said, “should not be subjected to pay to play.”
Several students spoke, including eighth-grader Max Wood, who said “Falmouth schools are suddenly looking more appealing.” He said he is concerned about meeting college requirements.
Another eighth-grader, Emma Cooper spoke against cutting a health teacher at the Middle School.
High school student James Sunshine spoke against cuts in the video production department, but Mitchell said no cuts are proposed in that department.
“Please tax me to death,” resident Kerem Durdag said about being willing to have his taxes increased, “because kids come first.”
Maureen Deveau said “I haven’t talked to anyone who would not consider (a tax increase). … These are human beings,” she said of the teachers whose jobs would be lost.
“I don’t know what these cuts mean,” Leah King said, “but I’m very worried about them.”
Mary Hicks said extracurricular activities are already expensive and that “sports is something that keeps our kids out of trouble.” She also spoke against cutting the Special Education budget.
Pennoyer Endrizzi spoke against cutting the foreign language program for third through fifth grades.
“It comes down to a larger issue,” Jaymie Chamberlin said. “Do we value Scarborough having a quality education system?”
The School Board will hold a second public hearing on the proposed budget Thursday, March 4, at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall.
Two long-range planning forums will be held Monday, March 8, and Wednesday, March 10. The first will examine education for grades six to 12 and the second will discuss kindergarten through grade five. Both forums will be held at the middle school cafeteria at 6:30 p.m.
A second School Board reading on the proposed budget will be held at 7 p.m. on March 18 at the Town Hall.
The Town Council will hold a reading of the town budget at 7 p.m. April 7, and the School Department will present its budget to the Council Finance Committee at 4 p.m. April 15.
The council will hold a public hearing on the budget at 7 p.m. on April 28 and have a second reading at 7 p.m. May 5.
The public school budget validation vote is on May 11.