2017-05-19 / Letters

What the school budget vote really means

To the editor:

At its May 17 meeting, the Scarborough Town Council will have considered a final budget proposal for fiscal 2018.

The proposal included both a 7.4 percent increase in taxpayer funding of the schools and a 3.5 percent increase in the overall tax rate.

After the council’s action, the school portion only of the budget goes to a public vote on June 13.

It is important that Scarborough residents understand exactly what they are voting on at the school budget referendum.

Based on the budget as of May 12, residents will be asked to approve or reject raising $42.8 million of taxes to fund the schools, an increase of 7.4 percent over the current year level.

Interestingly, town and school officials never mention the eye-popping 7.4 percent school funding increase, hoping that taxpayers will overlook it.

Instead, they focus on the more modest – but still high – overall tax rate increase of 3.5 percent.

Taxpayers should understand that the overall rate is only as low as it is primarily because the amount of taxes to be raised for municipal operations is remaining nearly flat in the new budget year.

Another highly important element of the school budget that town and school officials studiously avoid mentioning is the use of $2.1 million of surpluses (or fund balance) to bring taxpayer funding of the schools down to the 7.4 percent increase. If that $2.1 million hadn’t been drawn on, school funding would have increased by 12.7 percent and the overall tax rate increase would have been 7 percent. The use of surplus funds is an unsustainable financial gimmick that only sets us up for even larger tax rate increases in the future.

When we vote at the school budget referendum on June 13, Scarborough taxpayers have an opportunity to say no to a 7.4 percent increase in funding of the schools and let the town council know that continuing tax increases are unacceptable. Please vote no on June 13.

For more information, please visit www.SMARTaxes.com.

Annalee Rosenblatt
Scarborough

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