2015-07-17 / Front Page

Town Council reopens municipal budget, tweaks revenue in latest budget proposal

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

The third version of the school budget is in the works. The Town Council met this week to amend the budget after voters rejected it at the polls in June and July.

The latest budget impacts both school and municipal spending. Councilors decided to reopen the municipal budget, which they originally approved May 24, to see if there was a way to reduce spending on the municipal side to help reduce the burden on taxpayers

According to the amendment, which was unanimously supported by all seven councilors, “in an effort to reach a compromise, the Town Council appreciates the need to share in the responsibility of minimizing the impact on property tax rate and therefore agrees to amend the FY2016 municipal budget.”

To that end, the council agreed to increase the school budget by $180,000 while reducing the municipal budget by the same amount.  The total reduction in town-wide spending would still result in $500,000, but the school side would only be impacted by $320,000 rather than the full $500,000.

“There was a desire to maintain a cut of $500,000, but do so in a shared way,” Town Manager Tom Hall said Friday.

The Board of Education found $320,000 in cuts by reducing teacher stipends, course reimbursement, as well as instruction supplies and transportation and energy costs. The proposed $180,000 reduction in student activities and athletics at the intermediate, middle and high schools may be avoided if the budget is not altered again on Wednesday, July 22, when the Town Council convenes for a public hearing and final adoption of the budget.

The Town Council also amended the town-wide budget to include an additional $200,000 in excise tax revenue and apply the additional $884,891 in general purpose school aid to this years budget.

The shared reduction and additional revenue results in a budget that increases the tax rate by 2.8 percent, meaning the average homeowner in Scarborough would pay an additional $127 in taxes. The original budget, which was presented in early April, would have resulted in an 8.46 percent tax rate increase and an additional $384 on the average tax bill.

The next school budget validation vote will take place Tuesday, Aug. 4 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at town hall. That ballot will only ask voters if they approve or disapprove of the budget. The Town Council voted to remove an advisory question that asks voters if they thought the budget was too high, acceptable or too low.

“I’ve found over the years, it’s never been particularly helpful,” Hall said of the advisory question, which was modeled after a similar question on Cape Elizabeth ballots. “Depending on who you are, folks interpret that result very differently.”


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