Scarborough council OKs $81.7M town budget

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SCARBOROUGH — The Town Council unanimously passed an $81.7 million municipal and school budget Wednesday night – up $3.5 million from the current $78.2 million budget.

On the school side, the council approved a $47.5 million school budget, which represents a 3.95 percent increase over this year. Of the $47.5 million, the town would be responsible for fronting approximately $39.8 million.

In total, with both budgets combined, a net amount of $60.4 million would fall to taxpayers, compared with $58 million this fiscal year.

At the May 18 meeting, councilors and staff, for the sake of clarity, devised two separate ways of looking at the fiscal 2017 tax rate impact.

Based on a $30 million increase in valuation, the impact to the tax rate for fiscal year 2017 is projected to be about 3.16 percent. In a memo to councilors last week, however, Town Manager Tom Hall said he is “supremely confident that this projection represents the worst case scenario, as I expect the valuation increase to exceed $30 million.”

Comparatively, the tax rate calculated if the growth in valuation is equal to the 10-year average of $48.8 million would represent a projected 2.65 percent  increase, which is closer to what Hall said the town can expect. This rate would mean $15.90 per $300,000 of valuation – up 41 cents from this year’s $15.49. The increase would mean an additional $123 to the average resident’s tax bill, or $2.37 more a week.

The school budget includes a loss of about $1.1 million in general purpose aid from the state. At the May 18 meeting, councilors noted that hitting minimum receivership status, which would mean an additional loss of more than $1.5 million, is imminent and will likely happen within the next few years.

The fiscal 2017 budget includes an additional investment of about $590,000 to help fund more professional development for staff, as well as six new teaching positions – five at Scarborough High School, one at Wentworth Intermediate School and one at Scarborough Middle School.

Budget allocations for new positions on the municipal side include $84,500 for a new assistant town manager and about $61,000 for a new sustainability coordinator.

Residents who addressed the council Wednesday night mostly sang praises about this year’s budget process, which has lacked the vitriol of years past.

Drew Stevens, of Surrey Lane, lauded members of the council and school board for their collaboration and efforts to be “forthright.”

“It looks like you’re working in the right direction,” he said. “A lot of us notice that and appreciate it.”

Katy Foley, of Lucky Lane, congratulated the council on setting and meeting a maximum increase of 3 percent. “It’s a number I can definitely get behind and support,” she said.

Noting that maintaining a 3 percent increase will become increasingly tougher as the district gets closer to minimum receivership status, Foley advised the district to hire a development professional whose job would be not just be writing grants, but looking for ways in the community to supplement the loss of state aid. Scarborough is a community with resources to do that successfully, she said.

“I think we should be careful when we are thinking about the long term,” Foley said. “You hit the number (this year), and now you’ve got to do it again the next two years, and we as your constituents are going to hold you to that.”
 
The school budget referendum, along with the state primary election, will be held in the Scarborough High School gymnasium on Tuesday, June 14.

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

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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.