The Scarborough Town Council is expected to vote tonight on proposed school and municipal budgets, which now total $70.3 million.

As proposed, the budget for the year starting July 1 would increase Scarborough’s property tax rate by 48 cents, 3.95 percent, to $12.63 per $1,000 of valuation. The figures reflect recommendations by the Town Council’s Finance Committee.

The budget for municipal services accounts for about 46 percent of the total, schools account for about 51 percent and the Cumberland County tax accounts for about 3 percent.

Judith Roy, the committee chairman, said she recognized that such an increase could be difficult for elderly residents who live on fixed incomes, but she noted that the town has a circuit breaker program to supplement the state tax relief program.

Town Manager Thomas Hall has prepared a motion to add $25,000 to the program, for a total of $140,000.

While the budget would increase taxes, expenditures would be less than the current budget of $72.4 million. That’s because Scarborough faces a 14.6 percent drop in non-property-tax revenue.

Much of the tax increase comes from fixed costs such a health care, benefits and contracted pay raises, Roy said.

“I’m generally very, very conservative, but if people want the services, you have to pay for them,” she said.

Councilor Ronald Ahlquist said he would be more comfortable with a tax increase of 3.5 percent, especially since next year’s budget is expected to be even more difficult.

“Am I going to show up and someone might convince me otherwise? It’s going to be a tough sell,” he said.

Ahlquist said he doesn’t have particular cuts in mind and would like Hall to figure out any additional cuts to the municipal budget. He said that school officials have done a good job with their budget.

For the municipal budget, the Finance Committee kept Hall’s plan to reorganize the Public Works Department — a change that has already resulted in the layoff of a vehicle maintenance manager — and to eliminate bulky-item pickup.

The Finance Committee recommends extending the 2 percent raise in place for non-union employees to part-time workers and increasing total funding for outside agencies to $57,000 — more than the $18,000 initially proposed but less than the current amount of $74,230.

The school budget would cut the equivalent of more than 31 full-time positions, only a couple of which are now vacant.

The Town Council has the authority to change the bottom line of the school budget, but the Board of Education determines how to spend the money.

The number of jobs to be cut has shrunk since the Board of Education approved the school budget in March. School officials have since learned that debt repayments will be $153,123 less than originally anticipated.

That savings was used to restore a health teacher at Scarborough Middle School and a foreign language teacher at Wentworth Intermediate School, and keep three elementary level library education technicians at full-time.

The board also decided to use $400,000 in surplus to reduce the amount of money needed from taxes.

The school budget set by the council will go to a validation vote at the polls Tuesday.

 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

[email protected]