CAPE ELIZABETH — The School Board unanimously approved a nearly $20.7 million school budget on April 13.

The proposed fiscal 2011 budget is $672,000 more than this year’s $20 million budget, an increase of 3.4 percent. If passed, the budget would increase the property tax rate 35 cents, or 2.75 percent, from $12.74 to $12.89 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The budget adopted by the board Tuesday night was a compromise between a zero percent tax increase that would have caused significant cuts in staff and programming, and a maintenance budget that would have maintained programming, but with a 5 percent tax increase.

Nearly $290,000 of programs and positions were added back into the budget, too.

At Pond Cove Elementary School, a guidance counselor and two half-time educational technicians were restored in the library and computer labs. At the high school, the theater position, Mock Trial, a math teacher, Achievement Center teacher and attendance secretary were restored. The district health secretary’s job was also restored.

Cuts to the budget were nearly $290,000 and include a teacher at the middle school and the high school choral music and Mandarin language programs. Two educational technicians for instructional support, and two half-time education technicians at the middle school were cut. At Pond Cove Elementary School the board removed a half-time social worker and an educational technician II.

Chairwoman Rebecca Millett offered an amendment to the budget to add a half-time librarian at the Middle School in order to create a full-time position, and moved to maintain technology educational technicians at their present Level II grade.

The last-minute changes did not affect the bottom line; the board agreed to transfer the necessary $25,000 from contingency.

Although they voted in favor of the budget Kathy Ray, chairwoman of the the board’s Finance Committee, and Linda Winker expressed concerns. 

Ray said she is concerned about a budget increase when there are taxpayers who live on fixed incomes, and said she is against increasing a parking fee at the high school from $25 for four years to $50 each year. She said she is also uncertain about federal stimulus funds in the future and concerned about taking money out of the contingency for additions to the budget.

“Do we maintain this year, or do we start to reduce the budget so the hit isn’t so bad next year,” she said. “It is important we compromise, and I know no budget can make everyone happy.”

Winker said the budget process – five workshops and public hearings – was difficult because the board had to juggle three budgets with less specific input from administrators. She, too, said she is concerned about raising taxes and about raising $8,000 in revenues by increasing the parking fee at the high school.

But committee member Mary Townsend said the budget process was a community effort, and she was pleased that teachers, students, parents and residents made sacrifices.

The School Board will present the budget to the Town Council on May 6 at 7:30 p.m. in the Town Hall Council Chambers.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or [email protected]

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