The Scarborough Town Council removed the framework for positive school budget negotiations by allowing the town manager to submit a 2015-2016 budget that was 12-plus percent over last year’s.

The town charter required the school board budget to be the fallback if a budget wasn’t accepted by the voters by June 30, de-incentivizing the board to significantly reduce its budget. Results: A $43.8 million school budget, with an 8.1 percent spending increase, that was rejected by voters June 9.

Then the council learned that use of the 12-plus percent fallback budget was contrary to Maine law and communicated, without public discussions, that this year’s voter-rejected budget – as opposed to last year’s voter-approved budget – was to be used as the fallback budget.

Again, the incentive to negotiate was removed. The council requested reductions of $500,000 (a budget 6.8 percent above last year’s).

It failed at the polls July 7 because the school board, armed with a bigger fallback budget, embarked on the “Vote No, Too Low” campaign, instilling the idea that to vote otherwise would result in cuts in level services.

The council and school board couldn’t explain how a 6.8 percent spending increase over last year translated into a “cut” in “level” services. Why? The 6.8 percent was false. It was 3-plus percent, a fact the public was unaware of at the polls.

The council then added $250,000 back to the budget, resulting in a 5 percent increase in the latest budget.

The council’s executive-session decision not to address unethical tax assessment practices created the initial groundswell of discontent. Defending these practices, the council spent about $300,000, which could have gone toward our schools. Certainly more than the above $250,000 to try to make this embarrassment go away!

Please encourage positive change and responsible government. A 5 percent school budget increase is still too high. Vote “no” Aug. 4.

Don Petrin

Scarborough