The Scarborough Town Council approved a slightly modified town-wide budget of about $66.9 million Tuesday, a 7 percent increase from this year and will increase the tax rate by 21 cents to $17.55.

The school will spend about $25.5 million, an increase of about $1.5 million from this year. The town will spend about $17.3 million, which is an increase of about $300,000. The town and school will spend about $10.4 million in capital improvements next year.

Local taxpayers will pay $36.7 million of those costs, an increase of 1.2 percent over the local share of this year’s budget.

The budget includes a $450,000 reduction to the schools’ initial request. It is not clear where the district will make the necessary reduction. Superintendent Bill Michaud is in the process of developing a proposal that he will submit to the School Board at its June 2 meeting.

“We going to be trying everything we can to retain all day K,” Michaud said, adding the next goal is to try to keep the additional foreign language teachers that were included in the budget.

The council’s move was not popular among those who attended a public hearing on the budget last week. Many of those who spoke during the meeting were concerned about what the district would have to eliminate in order to meet the lowered appropriation.

Amy Glidden said that the district already is spending less per pupil than both the state average and neighboring towns.

“A $450,000 cut is out of line and may place it further down that list,” she said.

School Board member Christopher Brownsey also spoke out against the reduction. He was concerned that the district’s new proposals included in the budget such as the all-day kindergarten program, guidance department expansion, and the additional foreign language teachers for grades 4 and 6 could be affected.

Town Council Chairman Jeffrey Messer said the council does not have line item authority over the budget, only the authority to approve a lump sum. The Board of Education makes the actual line item funding decisions.

Still, Messer and Councilor Shawn Babine both said they were not in favor of the program during Tuesday’s meeting.

“My feeling is that in this particular community right now adding all-day K doesn’t get us any closer to beating our peers,” Babine said.

There were some who felt the school reduction was a start, but wanted more budget reductions. Resident Kathy Schuyler said Scarborough residents have been generous to the schools over the years, but this year was going to be the year when taxpayers get a break

“And I’m not seeing it here at all,” she said. “The schools are great in Scarborough; this isn’t the time to be adding new programs.”

During Tuesday’s meeting Councilor Patrick O’Reilly requested that the council add $200,000 back into the school budget, but the motion was defeated. O’Reilly said the council had received a great deal of comment regarding the school budget and noted that the district is nearly at the bottom of per-pupil spending statewide.

“I don’t believe that’s where this community wants their school system to be,” O’Reilly said.

The council did accept a proposal to reduce the school’s capital improvement budget by $50,000, which would have been used to construct a heated sidewalk at the high school. While the school department could fund the project from its own budget, Messer said the proposal looked like “elitism.”

“We have to draw the line somewhere on expenses,” he said.


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