Here’s what matters in your world today, if you live in Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough or South Portland.

Sound off: Is there something about our dear state, particularly about state government, that’s been bugging you, but you just haven’t had a proper outlet to express your frustration? Well, tonight is your chance to unburden yourself. First-term state Sen. Rebecca Millett, whose district includes Cape Elizabeth, South Portland and much of Scarborough, is conducting a public forum tonight, from 7-8:30 p.m., at town hall. Together with state representatives Scott Hamann of South Portland and Kim Monaghan-Derrig of Cape Elizabeth, Millett will take comment from local residents on the workings of the 126th Legislature. However, Millett says she’s particularly interested in a dialogue on where our dollars go, or, more correctly, where they come from.

“The governor’s proposed two-year budget contains seismic shifts in costs from the state to local communities,” she said. “It is important that the residents of Senate District 7 understand what is being proposed and how it will affect them, and have the opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns.” Unfortunately, no member of the local delegation sits on the appropriations committee, which takes point on budget deliberations. However, Millett does chair the Legislature’s joint standing committee on education, and that’s the biggest part of any conversation on public spending, on both he state and local level. Its also part of this year’s money migrations, as Gov. Paul LePage wants to begin pulling half of the pay to retired teachers from local coffers. In Cape, retirement benefits are said to ring in at $1.8 million, annually. If you can’t make tonight’s forum, Millett and Hamann are staging a second forum tomorrow night at the South Portland Community Center at 21 Nelson Road, again from 7-8:30 p.m. They will be joined at that event by South Portland representatives Bryan Kaenrath and Terry Morrison.

Tough target: Speaking of spending, tonight’s Town Council meeting in Scarborough will feature a vote on the council’s goals for 2013, hammered out at a Jan. 30 workshop. Councilors spent most of their time at that session fretting about this year’s budget. The official goal is to grow municipal spending by no more than 3 percent. However, that could be a tall order. Last year’s increase was 7.7 percent when the goal was to tie any spending hike to the consumer price index, which would have meant a 3.6 percent increase, or less than half the end result. This year, CPI was a non-starter, as was the suggestion of Councilor Ed Blaise to use zero as a starting point. Blaise noted that this year’s goal, CPI or not, looks a lot like last year’s, but he noted that this time around Scarborough is faced with proposed changes in the state budget that could rob $2.6 million from local revenue lines. That would trigger a 5.7 percent spike in property tax bills even if the council holds the line on spending. Although he decried continued annual hikes in education spending, Council Chairman Ron Ahlquist practically shouted down Blaise’s call for “zero-based budgeting,” a system that discards last year’s budget and starts the discussion at the ground level, requiring re-justification of every line item. “I don’t get where you’re coming from, what do you want us to do?” said Ahlquist, noting the council’s other goal, perhaps mutually exclusive, to make no cuts in staffing or services. Still, Councilor Jessica Holbrook said, “I can tell you right now, my household can’t afford another 7 percent. We haven’t got it.” That prompted Councilor Judy Roy to suggest the town redouble its efforts to generate revenue, particularly from parking tickets. “There’s a ticket that can be issued and that’s revenue until people stop parking on the streets between the hours of 2 and 6 a.m.,” she said.

Getting there from here: If Scarborough is looking to focus attention on where cars park, South Portland is taking a different cue from its neighbor. Last year, Scarborough spent $40,600 with Bailey Sign of Portland on 14 directional signs. Designed by South Portland-based marketing firm Simmons Ardell Inc., each 12-foot-high, gray-and-orange sign features a 4-foot-wide panel pointing the way to things like “beaches,” “mall area,” and “library.” Tonight, South Portland City Manager Jim Gailey will unveil a similar sign program at a meeting of an economic development committee. Gailey has been working with Simmons for eight months on ways to direct motorists to various landmarks, if not specific businesses. “Broadway is kind of the spine for us, but there are so many funky kinks in it, there are a least three places where people could get off it and lost easily.”

Today’s public meetings:

• South Portland Board of Assessment Review, 8 a.m. at City Hall.

• Cape Elizabeth School Board Strategic Planning Committee, noon at Town Hall (Jordan Conference Room).

• Cape Elizabeth Planning Board site walk, 3 p.m. at 10 Clinton Road.

• South Portland Economic Development Committee, 6 p.m. at City Hall.

• Scarborough Appointments Committee, 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall (manager’s conference room).

• Scarborough Town Council, 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

Tomorrow’s public meetings:

• Cape Elizabeth Recycling Committee, 7 p.m. at Public Works.

• Scarborough Board of Education, 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

• Scarborough Housing Alliance, 7 p.m. at Town Hall (manager’s conference room).

• South Portland Community Development Advisory Committee, 7 p.m. at City Hall.


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