SCARBOROUGH – Councilors at a special meeting Monday afternoon added $100,000 to the 2010-11 school budget in an attempt to sway voters who rejected a previous proposal at the polls earlier this month.

And councilors are hoping the next school budget referendum, scheduled for the June 8 primary election, will draw more than the 6 percent of registered voters that turned out for last month’s referendum.

Councilors on Monday urged residents to come out and vote on Tuesday, June 8. “Talk to 10 friends about voting and ask them to ask 10 friends …” Councilor Judy Roy said.

After discussing an option to propose the same $34.9 million school budget to voters once again, councilors settled unanimously on an amendment suggested by the Scarborough Board of Education and proposed by Councilor Shawn Babine that would add an additional $100,000 to the budget from the Teacher Accrual Account. Councilor Jessica Holbrook was absent.

The public hearing and second reading on the amended 2010-11 school budget is scheduled for the council’s next regular meeting, Wednesday, June 2 at 7 p.m. in council chambers.

But councilors soundly defeated a motion made by Councilor Karen D’Andrea to contribute an additional $100,000 to the school budget from the town’s reserve funds, choosing to keep it available in anticipation of another tough year.

Most were in agreement that the $100,000 amount they chose to add was somewhat arbitrary because they lacked a clear indication of how much – if any – to increase the original school budget, which was rejected by just 10 votes, 493-483, at the May 11 school budget referendum.

Opinions of school and town officials even varied as to whether results from the referendum’s dismal turnout indicated Scarborough residents believe the budget figure should be higher or lower.

The second half of the May 11 referendum question asked voters if the budget was too high or too low. A total of 386 voters indicated the budget was too high; 490 said it was too low. But, of those who answered, 383 of them also voted to approve the budget. And 111 voters did not respond to the question at all.

“Of the 493 who voted (not to pass the budget), 153 of them said it was too low,” Councilor Mike Wood said Monday morning. The remaining two-thirds indicated it was too high, said Wood, leading him to believe the majority of those dissatisfied enough to vote against the budget did so because they wanted it lowered.

Board of Education Chairman Brian Dell’Olio acknowledged the data could be used to support that viewpoint, but added he was convinced voters were saying the budget was too low, borne out by the total number of responses – 490 of which indicated the budget was too low and 386, too high.

“Citizens struggled with the budget as much as we did,” Dell’Olio said. “We must try to do a little something for everybody.”

Despite a history of dissension between the Scarborough Board of Education and the Town Council, Dell’Olio said the two worked cooperatively through what all predicted would be a challenging budget season. Several councilors on Monday lauded school board members for their hard work and tough decision-making during the process.

Dell’Olio said he hopes to continue the good relationship between the two entities as the school board prepares to form a building committee that would include councilors to tackle problems with Wentworth Intermediate School.

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