Voters narrowly reject Scarborough school budget

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SCARBOROUGH — Voters on Tuesday narrowly defeated the proposed $42.3 million fiscal year 2015 school budget.

According to the town clerk, the vote was 1,169 to 1,013, with 1,257 voters indicating on a separate question that the proposed budget was too high.

The 2,182 voters were just over 14 percent of Scarborough’s registered voters.

The Town Council must now reassess the school budget and send it out to another voter referendum on June 10, coincident with the primary election. The revised budget must go through two readings and a public hearing between now and then.

“Disappointing is an understatement, but it is what it is,” school Finance Committee Chairman Chris Caiazzo said Wednesday. 

The Town Council has the power to approve or deny the total school budget proposed by the School Board, but cannot control line items.

The School Board and school Finance Committee will hold meetings in the coming week to look into where the budget can sustain further cuts, and will then bring a new proposal to the Town Council.

“Obviously, at this point, there’s no low hanging fruit,” Caiazzo said. 

The council will then either approve the new proposal or make changes to the bottom-line budget total, as it did with the budget on May 9, when councilors cut more than half a million dollars from the proposal at the last minute.

In that vote, Councilors Ed Blaise and James Benedict dissented because they believed a proposed 3.5 percent tax increase was too large.

When a budget is approved by the council, the School Board can then more accurately adjust line items to account for overall changes demanded by the council.

Councilor Jean Marie Caterina was also disappointed with the referendum results, but echoed the frustrations of residents upset with rising taxes.

“When there’s a lack of appetite in town for an increase, there’s going to backlash,” she said Wednesday. “It’s a fine line between investing in schools and what the taxpayers are willing to accept.”

The May 9 alterations followed a nearly $1 million cut recommended by the School Board finance committee just a week earlier.

Last year, the education budget went to three referendums before it finally passed.

Shelby Carignan can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow her on Twitter: @shelbycarignan.