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Scarborough board pares school budget hike

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Posted: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 9:59 pm

SCARBOROUGH – More than one person at Wednesday’s public hearing for next year’s $37.8 million Scarborough school budget said it would drive people from town.

However, depending on who was speaking, the imminent exodus is either because the 11.28 percent spike it would cause in property taxes is more than people can bear, or because that increase is still not enough to maintain a quality education for students.

“My taxes have gone up roughly $400 to $500 every year for the past three years,” said Evergreen Farms Road resident Randy Lamattina. “It’s getting ridiculous. As a retired law enforcement officer, I can’t afford it anymore. It’s getting to be a choice of move out of Scarborough, which I don’t want to do, or shut my heat down and maybe get a little bit cold.”

But one father of a first-grader, Ottawa Woods Road resident William Bly, took an alternate view of the spending proposal.

“This budget, in my eyes, falls short of where it should be,” he said. “I can tell you that as the parent with a young family that if this school budget is not passed, at a bare minimum I will seek to reside in a different area where people will support the school system through taxes.”

The first draft for FY 2013 presented by first-year Superintendent Dr. George Entwistle III on March 15 called for a 9.86 percent spending hike, to $39.2 million. However, the loss of $1.3 million from expired federal stimulus grants means a greater portion of the budget will have to come from local taxes. Initially, that jump was pegged at 16.12 percent.

By the time of a day-long budget workshop March 31, Entwistle’s proposal had dropped to $38.2 million (up anywhere from 7.2 to 7.7 percent, depending on the results of a debt refinancing deal), with a 12.9 percent hit to tax bills.

By Wednesday, school officials had cut $402,935 from spending, while proposing to fund $50,000 in “non-tax revenues.” That now lowers spending to a 6.05 percent increase, with an 11.28 percent hit to taxes. That does not include the municipal and county impacts, which are up 2 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively.

According to Entwistle, who has called his budget “mission critical,” even at the higher levels, the new cuts come primarily from four sources. He intends now to buy one new school bus next year instead of two, and the growth in spending for classroom supplies has been cut in half ,from 5 percent to 2.5 percent. One elementary school teaching position will be cut, as well.

Entwistle said after the hearing that he decided to not refill the teaching job following expected retirements and resignations at year’s end because of projected enrollment numbers for next year. However, he was not yet able to confirm which grade and which school will see the cut.

He also has shifted about $150,000 for new computers from the operating budget back to capital bonding, as technology improvements were funded before his tenure.

According to Entwistle the $50,000 in new revenue is only a promised number at this point, with no firm source in mind. However, possibilities include an increase to extracurricular fees and a new student-parking fee at the high school.

Scarborough’s budget process will continue with a Town Council Finance Committee meeting at 10 a.m. on April 20, followed by a joint workshop of the council and school directors at 7 p.m. on April 25.

The school board will cast its final vote the day before the workshop, on April 24, while the council will have its say on the bottom line on May 2. Finally, the public will cast its ballot at referendum May 15.

Welcome to the discussion.