Yarmouth council sends budget increases to voters

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YARMOUTH — The Town Council has approved the combined municipal and school budget of $34.9 million.

Councilors on May 7 decided to send the budget to the June 2 Town Meeting. The school budget of $22 million and the municipal budget of 11.6 million will be voted on, along with the Cumberland County tax and quiet zone funds.

Despite an April 16 meeting where the school budget was scrutinized by councilors, the budget was approved with little comment on May 7. Councilors in April expressed concern about why a savings of $175,000 was being spent instead of used to reduce the budget.

The School Committee budget has an increase of almost $844,000 from the current year, or 3.98 percent.

“We think it’s a fair budget,” School Committee member, and chairman of the finance committee, Tim Wheaton told councilors last week. “It meets our basic needs. I think it has the interests of the towns and schools at heart.”

Jeanne Rapone, who is running for a seat on the School Committee in the June 9 election, said increasing the budget is necessary to move the district forward.

“If we keep asking for a flat tax increase, we will not gain anything,” Rapone said. “If we keep saying flat tax for both town and school … our schools will need to continue to cut supplies, technology, professional development and etc. in order to keep up with the increases of everything else.”

Councilor Pat Thompson, who in April criticized the School Committee’s use of the windfall, said she was OK with approving the budget, as long as the savings are put to good use.

“If we continue to not look for savings that can then be put towards the improvement and enhancement of the quality of the education in Yarmouth, not just the maintenance of it, but the enhancement of it, then we go nowhere,” she said. “I’m not just about lifting budgets and spending more unless we know the money will be well spent.”

In addition to the June 2 Town Meeting, the school budget will be voted on in a referendum on June 9.

The municipal budget has an increase of $296,000 from the current year, or 2.61 percent. The council is also proposing an appropriation of $250,000 to establish quiet zones at railroad crossings.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.