Scarborough school budget takes big hit from state

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SCARBOROUGH — The School Board on April 6 unanimously approved the first reading of a $43.8 million budget that will increase taxes, mostly due to an anticipated large loss in state subsidy.

The School Department is facing a potential loss of $1.4 million in state aid to education in fiscal 2018, down from $3.5 million this year. The reduction would put Scarborough into minimum receivership, which means the state cannot give the school any less. 

As a result, the fiscal 2018 budget is about 10 percent more than this year’s net budget.

The school portion of the current $15.92 tax rate is $10.56 per $1,000 of assessed real estate value. 

Because property values will not be complete until the summer, the town has produced three scenarios to estimate tax rates for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1. Homeowners may see a tax increase ranging from 7.86 percent – equal to $11.39 per $1,000 of assessed value – to 9.26 percent, or $11.54 per $1,000 of assessed value on the school portion of their tax bill. 

Homeowners of a median-priced $300,000 home would pay $3,417 in school taxes under the $11.39 “optimistic” tax increase.

Under a “mid-range” scenario of a $11.47 per $1,000 of assessed value, the same homeowner would pay $3,441.

Under the “cautious” scenario with a $11.54 tax rate, a homeowner would pay $3,462 in school taxes. 

According to the budget, fixed costs are rising, including contractual obligations, a significant increase in heath insurance, increases in utilities, supplies and services.

Teacher retirement costs have also been shifted from the state to local districts, and Scarborough’s required contribution is projected to be $951,500.

Also, according to budget documents, state mandated proficiency-based education requires more funding, which includes such increased costs as staff training, administration, parent/student communication, curriculum and assessment development, adoption of a new online grade book and new graduation requirements.

According to budget documents, personnel costs, which make up salaries and benefits, are 76 percent of the school budget. 

During the meeting, Superintendent Julie Kukenberger told the board it’s important that Scarborough stay competitive, because the talent pool for teachers is already limited and declining. According to federal data, Kukenberger said, fewer students are pursuing a career in education. 

“We need to make sure we have competitive salaries,” Kukenberger said.

She also said Scarborough is on the low end of the salary range compared to other districts. The new teachers’ contract granted cost-of-living raises of o.5 percent this year, 1 percent in 2018 and 1.5 percent in 2019, and step increases for teachers to make Scarborough salaries more competitive with neighboring districts.

Kukenberger said 12.6 percent of the district’s teachers are eligible to retire now and another 5.4 percent will be ready to retire within the next five years.

On May 10, there will a joint public workshop with the Town Council. A final reading of the budget is scheduled May 17. The budget validation referendum is scheduled for June 13. 

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