2017-07-21 / Front Page

No state money for Scarborough school system

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

Town and school leaders had been hoping Scarborough schools would receive extra money to bring down taxes for fiscal year 2018 in light of the extra $48 million in general purpose aid in the state’s recently adopted biennial budget.

That, however, did not happen. According to data from the Maine Department of Education, Scarborough will receive slightly more than $2.1 million in revenue from the state, the same figure that was expected back in February that the town budget was built around.

“Despite all of our optimism and hope, the bottom line has not changed a penny for us,” Superintendent Julie Kukenberger said.

Kukenberger remains optimistic Scarborough will get additional state aid in the second year on the governor’s biennial budget, when $116 million in additional state money will be handed out.

“As more money is infused to schools in Maine, Scarborough may see some of that come our way to offset the school budget and what we need to ask our tax- payers for,” she added.

The state mandated that at least 50 percent of extra general purpose aid for this fiscal year go to tax relief. Town council and board of education members had hoped to be able to do that for Scarborough taxpayers, but since no extra money will be coming from the state, taxpayers will be asked to foot $62.7 million of Scarborough’s overall town budget.

As a result, the estimated tax rate ($16.40 per thousand valuation) is expect to increase 2.99 percent and the average homeowner in town can expect an additional $144 in taxes.

Since 2009, Scarborough schools have lost close to $5 million in general purpose aid from the state and this budget season faced a 17 percent decrease in the amount of state aid received for the 2016-2017 school year.

“We’ve been hit, as Julie said, with a major loss of revenue and unfortunately we are not seeing any increase in that,” said board member Jodi Shea, who chairs the group’s finance committee.

Scarborough was one of 64 communities or school units to not receive additional revenue and one of the few in southern Maine not to get additional aid. Kittery, York and the Wells-Ogunquit school districts also did not get extra general purpose aid.

Most of the communities around Scarborough received at least an additional $300,000, including Cape Elizabeth ($319,500 more), Gorham ($549,600), Saco ($707,000), Westbrook ($907,800), South Portland ($1 million) and Portland ($2.7 million).

Voters will weigh in on a $42.2 net operating budget at the polls Tuesday. The budget before voters is a spending plan that is $236,000 less than the original validation vote. It includes 2.88 percent more in spending than 2016-2017, but a 6.8 percent increase in reliance on taxpayers, largely due to the decrease in state aid.

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

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