SCARBOROUGH–Scarborough School Board members Monday unanimously passed a resolution increasing the school budget by $100,000, less than 10 days after voters narrowly rejected a $34.9 million budget as too low.

The May 11 referendum drew about 1,000 voters for what the board’s finance committee chairman, Robert Mitchell, called “an incredibly low turnout.” Of those, 483 residents voted to adopt the budget and 493 voted to reject it. Asked if the school budget as presented was too high, 386 voted yes while 490 voted too low. Another 111 did not answer the question.

With its resolution, the school board committed to transferring $100,000 from the teacher accrual account to bring the new budget total to $35 million. The account holds money to cover five summer pay periods for teachers for work they have completed this school year, according to Superintendent David Doyle. The board also recommended the Town Council use $100,000 to $200,000 of its reserve fund to add to the town’s bottom line.

The Town Council is scheduled to act on the new 2011 budget at a special meeting, Monday, May 24. A new school budget referendum date will be set for June 8, which is primary day.

Council Chairwoman Carol Rancourt said Monday if the school board wants to ask the council to use the undesignated reserve fund to bring down the tax rate, she pointed out that two such recent attempts failed. In which case she said, it “doesn’t look good for that option.”

The reason, she said, is, “we’re concerned about next year, as well,” and that would bring the tax rate down “too low.” Still, Rancourt said, she hadn’t made up her mind.

Only Doyle proposed an alternative amount, calling for $215,000 in increased spending, an amount he said would “buy five or six” teacher positions. The original budget called for 31 positions to be cut.

Doyle’s proposal produced little discussion and at the end, the original resolution, drafted by Chairman Brian Dell’Olio and Doyle, sailed through.

Several board members, including John Cole, tried to open a discussion on which positions the money would be best spent.

But, Doyle pointed out the sole job of the board at this point was to recommend a bottom line. Once a new bottom line is set, residents will vote again.

Still, the board took time to listen to several Scarborough residents advocate for specific teachers and programs.

Susan Snowden, with two children in the school system, spoke on behalf of children with special needs.

Evan Kane, a fifth-grader at Wentworth Intermediate School, and his friend Uday Atragada, a fourth-grader, took the podium and spoke in behalf of the Gifted and Talented Education Services (GATES).

“Please keep GATES open,” pleaded Atragada, who has access because his friends, including Kane, enjoy the program.

Dell’Olio read the resolution before a packed room and said the adjustments were made on the basis that voters, as did the board, “appeared to struggle” and rejected the budget by only 10 votes.

Dell’Olio added, “We believe this adjustment provides for a balanced, middle-of-the-road effort to restore teaching positions, but also ease the tax burden.”

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