SCARBOROUGH — With a third school budget validation referendum less than a week away, independent groups representing both sides of the issue, as well as School Board members and town councilors seem to agree: the budget must be approved on Aug. 4.
So far, the town has spent approximately $4,000 on budget validation elections. After the Aug. 4 vote, the total will increase to $6,000.
The third revised operating budget, unanimously by councilors on July 22, is now proposed at $43.5 million.
The sum of the municipal and school budget would be $57.8 million, with a tax rate increase of 2.9 percent. The projected mil rate would be $15.54 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
Stacey Neumann, founder of the Facebook group Supporters of Scarborough Schools, issued a statement on the proposal July 23, the morning after councilors unanimously voted to reinstate $250,000 to the spending plan.
“We appreciate this vote as a unanimous decision on the part of the Town Council and hope that by coming together now to support this budget, we can once again unite our town,” Neumann said. “We encourage everyone to vote yes on this budget and commit to working to fund high-quality schools for our children in future years.”
Another Facebook group, Save Scarborough Schools, also urged residents “to vote yes on this budget. While no one is jumping for joy over this, we need to end this battle and focus on the real war.”
On the opposing side, resident Steve Hanly, who has offered critical analysis of the budget via his blog, LookOutScarborough.com, also noted that “it has been a long six months of school budget discussions and disagreements. Time to put aside those differences and move on. Let the healing begin!”
At the Town Council meeting July 22, Chairwoman Jessica Holbrooke said “in the spirit of trying to find compromises and middle ground, this is not a budget that anybody loves (but) … it is my sincere hope that we have to recognize that we have to move forward.”
By early afternoon Wednesday, Town Clerk Tody Justice reported, the number of absentee ballots received was “down” from the last election, at about 500.
The town received 1,100 absentee ballots for the second referendum on July 7, and nearly 900 for the first vote on June 9. Voter turnout at the last referendum was 26 percent.
School Board member Chris Caiazzo predicted the turnout for the third referendum will be considerably lower than the first two.
“I get the feeling that everyone feels like a compromise has been struck, and it feels like everyone’s kind of starting to move on a little bit,” Caiazzo said Wednesday afternoon.
Town Manager Tom Hall said he also expects the budget to pass; for the first time, it seems like both sides are acquiescing, he said.
“I’m very hopeful that we (will be able) to get through this, so we can start more important longer-range discussions,” Hall said Wednesday.
Town staff typically begin budget talks in December or January. In a concerted effort to start next year’s budget process on the right foot, staff will start the process in September, Hall said.
Polls will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. at Town Hall. Absentee ballots must be submitted by 8 p.m. that day.