Scarborough council approves budgets, 5.8% tax hike

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SCARBOROUGH — Town councilors Wednesday approved municipal and school budgets totalling approximately $59.3 million.

The fiscal year 2016 budget includes a 5.8 percent tax increase. The mil rate is expected to be $15.97 per $1,000 of assessed value, which is an increase of 87 cents from this year. The new budget would increase taxes $261 on a home valued at $300,000, for an annual tax bill of $4,800. 

The net municipal budget is $17.7 million, up about $367,000 from this year. The net school budget is about $39 million, a 7.7 percent increase from this year’s $36 million.

Included in the capital budget is a request to purchase laptop computers for each student at Scarborough High School, at a cost of approximately $733,000 in the first year. 

The figure approved Wednesday night is more than $130,000 less than the initially proposed expense of about $866,000

The approved cost per unit per year is $413, and will require a student fee of $60 per device. 

Only three members of the public commented on the budget before the council voted.

Afterwards, Councilor Ed Blaise expressed disappointment with the final figures.

“Once again, I’m very disappointed that we’re sending (this school budget to voters). We’re driving people out of town,” Blaise said. “This town has got to figure out how to manage their responsibilities.”

Blaise and Councilor Peter Hayes moved for budget reductions. Hayes’ motion included a request to reduce the school budget by $250,000. It was defeated 5-2, with Hayes and Blaise in the minority.

Blaise also moved to reduce the municipal budget by about $204,000 and the school budget by approximately $616,000 to “remove funding for cost-of-living increases for all town and school employees.” It, too, was defeated, 6-1.

Councilor Jean Marie Caterina reminded the public that setting the budget is a balancing act and that the council tries its best to come up “with a balance that perpetuates the values of the town.”

Councilor Kate St. Clair said she likes being a councilor, “but this is the worst time of year because any decision we make, someone is going to go without, and that’s a horrifying position to be in.”

The school budget validation referendum will be held Tuesday, June 9. 

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.