2014-06-20 / In the News

School budget by the numbers

To the editor:

On June 10, Scarborough voters narrowly approved a $42 million school budget, as reported in the Leader last week. Although the Leader accurately noted that approving the school budget would increase the overall tax rate by 2.9 percent over the current rate, there was no mention of the 6.8 percent increase in gross school expenses included in the budget.

Similarly, there was no mention of the $800,000 of fund balance (i.e., surpluses carried over from prior years) nor the $500,000 increase in state funding this year that were included in the budget to bring the net increase of the school budget to only 4.2 percent over the current year level.

As the above percentages indicate, the increase in the school budget may be portrayed in several ways – all of them accurate. Any way one elects to portray the increase, it was significant ... especially when one considers that the current general inflation rate is around 1.5 percent.

Yet many citizens appear to be under the impression that the school budget was drastically cut during the budget review process with the town council over the past few months. That is simply not so. Yes, the $43.8 million gross school budget proposal presented on March 26 (an increase of 10.9 percent over FY14) was reduced to $42 million, a 6.8 percent increase over last year. But it strains the imagination to describe a 6.8 percent gross expense increase as a cut in any sense of the word.

Stephen Hanly

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