Scarborough councilors OK 3rd school budget proposal

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SCARBOROUGH — A third proposed school budget for the current fiscal year was unanimously approved by the Town Council Wednesday night.

It will be sent to a validation referendum Sept. 5.

A decision on a possible bond referendum for a new public safety building, meanwhile, was delayed until the council’s Sept. 6 meeting, when councilors must act if they want to include the question on the November general election ballot.

The school budget approval came after $50,000 was removed from the proposal residents rejected July 25.

Superintendent Julie Kukenberger was prepared to discuss how she proposes to cut the budget from $47.17 million to just under $47.13 million at a School Board meeting Aug. 17. Any budget changes have to be approved by the School Board.

Residents rejected two previous school budget proposals for the 2018 fiscal year, which began July 1.

On June 13, 57 percent of voters opposed a proposed $47.4 million budget, and they rejected the $47.1 million school budget, 1,930 to 1,847, in the second budget referendum on July 25.

The second vote was the seventh time in the last six years a school budget has failed at the polls. In 2015, residents defeated it twice; it took two attempts in 2012, and three referendums in 2013.

By removing $50,000, the new school budget would require a local contribution of $42.2 million. That represents a nearly 6.8 percent increase over last year’s budget, due mainly to the loss of about $1.4 million in state subsidy.

The tax implication for residents is an estimated 2.91 percent increase in the overall tax bill, which also includes municipal and county taxes. Property valuations would determine the precise number.

Absentee ballots, which were available earlier and are still available, can now be returned to the town clerk’s office. Early voting in the clerk’s office will take place until Aug. 31 during normal business hours. Voting on Sept. 5 is from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. at the Scarborough Municipal Building, 259 U.S. Route 1.

If the third budget referendum fails, councilors approved a measure that would allow the town to commit the taxes using the education budget they approved Wednesday. This would allow the town to send out tax bills so they can meet financial obligations. The other option would be borrowing money.

Councilor Chris Caiazzo called it the “financially responsible thing to do for the town. We all hope for the best, but we have to plan for the worst,” Caiazzo said.

Town Manager Tom Hall said, “I am not aware that any community in Maine has found themselves in this situation.”

In other business:

• Councilor Katy Foley proposed establishing an ad-hoc Budget Advisory Committee. A first reading will be tentatively scheduled for Sept. 26, and a workshop will be scheduled before the meeting at a date to be determined.

• Councilors approved new parking fees at Higgins Beach that will be in effect from May 1-Sept 15. Metered parking fees of $1 per hour will be added along Bayview Avenue from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. and are expected to go into effect Sept. 1. Previously, one hour of free parking was available to beach-goers. Season pass holders will still be able to park for free, and residents over the age of 60 are entitled to a free season pass.

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or Follow her on Twitter @melaniesochan.