Balking at the budget: Tonight, the South Portland City Council is expected to become the latest municipality to give a formal raspberry to Gov. Paul LePage and his attempts to balance state books for the next two fiscal years. The meeting agenda includes a resolution “Expressing opposition to the proposed State of Maine biennium budget.” The Maine Municipal Authority did not reply to an inquiry Friday asking how many municipalities have adopted similar resolutions, but does claim on its website to be collecting such information. Given reaction to the governor’s proposals at a Jan. 23 joint meeting between the council and the South Portland school board, it seems unlikely any councilors will vote against the resolution. As currently proposed, the suspension of state revenue sharing, along with changes to the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement program and a stateward shift in commercial excise taxes, could cost the city $3 million. That and the loss of the $10,000 homestead exemption for residents younger than age 65 would mean a 10.7 percent hike in most residential property tax bills before councilors add a penny to the budget, from with the city or school sides of the ledger.

The buzz about school security: In the wake of the Dec. 16 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., the Cape Elizabeth School Board put the fast track on new security doors at its three school buildings to deny entry to anyone not “buzzed in” by the main office. Now, South Portland has taken the same tack, putting a similar contract out to bid. The systems were planned in both districts, officials say, but gained added momentum following the Newtown tragedy. The plan in South Portland is to install a buzzer system, along with audiovisual equipment office staff can use to interact with visitors, at all five elementary schools and at the front entrance of the high school. The middle schools already have such security. Dyer Elementary will require electrical systems work to accommodate the new equipment. Superintendent Suzanne Godin said last week that bids are due back later this month and that the new security measures should be in place by “late winter or early spring.” Cape Elizabeth Superintendent Meredith Nadeau has said the door upgrades in her district should be installed over February vacation. No cost estimate has been released, but Nadeau said that even after a $200,000 state subsidy curtailment announced last month, savings on fuel and insurance contracts should leave enough room to reallocated funds from the department’s operating budget. In South Portland, Godin said money for the upgrades (expected to ring in around $40,000) will comes from unspent money in a reserve account created the last time the elementary schools were renovated.

Final report?: South Portland’s annual report is hot off the presses, or available for digital download. As usual, the 72-page report is chock full of financial data and department reviews for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2012. But could this be the last such report issues in the city? A bill before the state Legislature, submitted by Rep. Archie Verow of Brewer would excuse any municipality that does not hold an annual town meeting from publishing an annual report. According to South Portland City Manager Jim Gailey, in reply to emailed questions, that exemption would save South Portland roughly $1,700 annually in printing costs, not to mention staff time from the in-house production. But would South Portland take advantage of such an exemption, if available? Gailey’s email did not contain a reply to that part of the inquiry.

Marsha, Marsha, Marsha: This morning, representatives from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry held a “scoping session” at Scarborough Town Hall with members of the local planning department and conservation commission, along with members of the Scarborough Land Trust and the Friends of the Scarborough Marsh. The purpose of the meeting was to begin laying groundwork for the town’s application to be part of the state’s Marsh Migration Team, which will provide analysis and technical support to help communities combat rising sea levels. Current estimates of the Maine Geological Survey predict a two-foot rise in coastal sea levels over the next century. If true, that would grow the 3,000-acre Scarborough Marsh by 17 percent, transforming 80 percent of it to a lowland marsh, or more aquatic, ecology.

Walk this way: The Cape Elizabeth Land Trust isn’t wasting any time making good on its promises regarding its recent purchase of “Robinson Woods II.” In November, the trust finalized a $1.1 million buy of the 63-acre property, which, with its original Robinson Woods purchase puts 145 contiguous acres in permanent conservation, while also protecting nearly a mile of the 7.5-mile cross-town trail that connects Fort Williams to Kettle Cove. Tomorrow, trust representatives will meet with the planning board to lay out plans for trail improvements in the newly acquired tract along Shore Road, and apply for a resource protection permit, required in Cape Elizabeth to disturb more than an acre of wetlands.

Today’s public meetings:

• Cape Elizabeth School Board Policy Committee, 7:30 a.m. at the middle school (Madden Conference Room).

• South Portland Conservation Commission, 6:30 p.m. at City Hall (lower level conference room)

• South Portland City Council, 7 p.m. at City Hall (council chambers).

Other items of interest:?• AARP Tax Assistance, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. at South Portland City Hall (lower conference room).

Tomorrow’s public meetings:

• Cape Elizabeth Planning Board workshop, 7 p.m. at Town Hall (Jordan Conference Room).


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