2016-05-13 / Community News

Budget hearing brings no controversy

School validation vote is scheduled for June 14
By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

The Town Council held a public hearing on the budget last week, but much to councilors’ surprise and despite a full house in the council chambers, no one rose to speak for or against the spending plan.

Just one year ago, the council chamber was full of residents voicing concern about the laptop program at the high school, the tax impact of increasing municipal and school spending, and the need for better funding of education for students and the community.

“It’s hard to have a public hearing without public input,” Council Chairman Bill Donovan joked just before banging his gavel ending the public hearing.

The lack of public comment caught Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina off guard.

“I found it stunning that no one spoke at the budget public hearing. This is the first time I’ve seen it in my three years on the council,” Caterina said. “I am not sure what to say about that.”

Councilor Chris Caiazzo said he expected “a marathon session” of public comment like he saw during his three years on the board of education.

“I chose to remain positive and take the lack of comment both for or against the budget as an endorsement that our process is working well and our communications are adequate,” Caiazzo said.

School board finance committee chairman Jodi Shea was also taken aback by the lack of public comment.

“Last night I was blown away that no one got up and spoke at the public hearing on the town and school budget,” Shea told her fellow board members at their May 5 meeting. “I am taking it as a positive and that we’ve done our job in communicating and will continue to communicate what’s in the budget, why it is important and the results we had to get from the investments we are making. That’s the only way I can take it.”

Caiazzo said he hopes the lack of comment at the May 4 public hearing is not an indication that turnout at the primary and school validation vote on Tuesday June 14 will be light.

Aside from setting a goal of getting the budget passed on the first try – something that has not happened since 2012 – councilors have also strived to create a more transparent budget process and have a better working relationship with school officials. Donovan said to that end, the town and school finance committees have been working hard together to “exchange perceptions and ideas about how the budget can be most effective.”

As it stands now, approximately $60.3 million of the gross $87.5 million budget will be funded through taxes. Vice Chairman Shawn Babine said due to this and the anticipated $30 million increase in assessed value, the tax rate will increase 3.27 percent. This would mean an additional $153 in taxes for the owner of the $300,000 home, the average home value in Scarborough.

The finance committee, Babine said, will likely adjust the budget, before May 18, when the council will adopt the budget.

The finance committee has spent the last few weeks meeting with department heads and the board of education’s finance committee to review the overall town budget.

The committee was expected to make its final recommendations and review the proposed staffing additions May 11, after the Leader’s deadline.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

Return to top