SCARBOROUGH – The Town Council on Wednesday unanimously approved municipal and school budgets that will add 90 cents to the town’s property tax rate, despite comments from some councilors that they are uncomfortable with the increase.

The council approved recommendations from the Finance Committee to reduce municipal spending by more than $37,000 for the fiscal year that starts July 1, and to cut more than $1.8 million from the spending request made by the school department.

Those changes bring the municipal spending total to $15.7 million and the school total to $32.1 million. Residents will have the final say on education spending in a referendum May 15.

Town Manager Tom Hall said that when the projected 7.33 percent spending increase is considered against an expected $15 million increase in Scarborough’s total property value, the tax rate is projected to increase by 6.9 percent, from $13.03 per $1,000 of valuation to $13.93.

The $1.8 million cut from the initial school budget request came largely from favorable adjustments in debt payments and health care and dental costs, the delayed purchase of a new school bus and holding off on adding an elementary school teacher, said Superintendent George Entwistle.

He said the budget now represents high-priority needs and recognizes that “this is not the best of times financially.”

“I feel that we’ve created a very credible and very responsive budget,” he said.

Council Vice Chairman Judith Roy, who also chairs the Finance Committee, said the increase in spending for 2012-13 is necessary to maintain the integrity of roads, schools and other programs and departments in town.

She said she is uncomfortable with the tax increase but is confident that the budget will be more level in the future.

“It’s not the kind of increase we really wanted to see,” she said.

The council voted against an amendment proposed by Councilor Jessica Holbrook to further reduce the school budget by $300,000.

Council Chairman Ronald Ahlquist said such a suggestion should have been brought up before the Finance Committee sent a “solid package” for the council’s approval. He said councilors had hoped to keep the increase down but had to deal with reality.

“We can’t start dismantling what we have here in town,” he said.

Councilor Carol Rancourt said further budget cuts would be “extremely painful” and cause reductions in services.

Absentee ballots for the school budget referendum are now available at Town Hall.

Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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