2015-06-12 / Letters

Matching budget size and ability to pay is difficult task

To the editor:

Over the next few weeks, legislators will be casting hundreds of votes. Thus far, I have not missed a single one of our more than 100 roll calls. During this busy end-of-the-session, we are often found working into the wee hours. After adjournment in June, Maine’s citizen legislators return home to their jobs and families.

I serve on the budget writing committee, which means that I am involved in making difficult decisions regarding the funding of core functions of state government.

Our fledgling economy is turning around, but many Maine communities are still suffering, especially rural areas of the state. Maine’s overall unemployment numbers are strong, down to 4.7 percent, whereas just five years ago we were 8 percent. That’s remarkable progress.

Of local interest, activist groups and members of the school board and town council have encouraged me to increase Scarborough’s school subsidy. I welcome the opportunity to engage with my constituents. It is always beneficial to listen and to learn what others are thinking.

As one of the 13 budget writing committee members, I serve in the minority, and I do not have sole authority to take funding from one vital program and shift it to another.

The complex state school funding formula includes factors such as student head count and property values. Scarborough, as compared to many struggling communities across the state, is a vibrant coastal community with decreasing student enrollment, thus we have been notified that we should anticipate losing some state aid, while other poor rural communities’ allotment will be increased.

Scarborough residents’ general perception seems to be one of unfairness, and our town’s taxpayers do pay more into the system via taxation and economic activity than we receive back in subsidy.

That is how socializing the cost of education works.

My husband and I have lived in Scarborough for more than 30 years. All three of our sons graduated from Scarborough High School, and we have long supported our local schools.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a movement afoot implying that the good citizens of Scarborough have somehow fallen short.

To the contrary, our schools are and have been wellsupported both financially and with parental and community involvement. Of course, we can strive for more, but, on the heels of the Great Recession, the generous people of Scarborough should be thanked. Our blessings are many.

As with the state budget, the town must also have a balanced budget. And it can be a difficult task to match the size of government, including our school budget, with the ability of the citizens to pay. But, nonetheless, it must be done.

I hope this information is helpful, and if you have further questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

Heather Sirocki
State Representative, House District 28

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