Scarborough residents face 2.6% property tax increase

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SCARBOROUGH — Residents may be looking at an increase in property taxes next year as a result of revenue declines for the schools and town, combined with moderate increases in expenses.

Town Manager Tom Hall introduced a combined $69.4 million municipal and school budget during the Town Council meeting Wednesday night. It includes a 2.64 percent increase in the property tax rate, which will mean an additional $99 in taxes for owners of a $300,000 home.

“Revenues. Really, that’s the tale of this budget,” Hall said. “In the big picture, revenues are down about $715,000.”

The town’s non-property tax revenues are expected to be down by nearly $134,000 in fiscal 2012, while the school’s revenues are expected to decline by $580,000.

Property taxes increased by 3.95 percent this year and remained flat last year.

The 2012 budget includes a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase for non-union town employees and an additional $97,000 to cover an increase in fuel and gas prices.

“Our employees are our greatest asset,” Hall said. “We need to be mindful and keep track of their needs.”

He added that the town is entering into a three-year plan to increase wages for library staff so they are comparable with other town employees.

“Not only are they not comparable to town staff, but to other libraries, they’re not comparable,” he said. “We need to be competitive.”

Hall said the town has eliminated most capital improvement projects from the budget to make room for the anticipated Wentworth Intermediate School replacement project, which must be approved by voters in November.

Hall congratulated the School Department for putting together a “tough, but realistic budget.”

The School Department’s budget would eliminate two dozen jobs and increase athletic and extracurricular fees, while reducing operating expenses by $1.3 million to help make up for lost revenue from the state and federal governments.

“I think there is a bit of silver lining here: This has forced us to re-evaluate what we do and how we do it,” Hall said.

However, he warned that should cuts like this continue, the town will have to consider more drastic changes, such as eliminating or realigning entire departments.

“That’s a conversation many people will need to be involved in,” he said.

The School board will hold its second reading on the budget on March 24 and the council will have its first reading of the full budget on April 6. 

The public budget referendum will be held May 17.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net

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