We all got through another Monday but that that doesn’t mean any let up on the municipal front. Tuesday, too, is a big day for public meetings. Here’s some of what’s going on in your world today, if you live in Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough or South Portland.

Cape conundrum

Tonight the Cape Elizabeth Board of Education begins work in earnest on the $22.5 million spending plan for the coming school year, presented by Superintendent Meredith Nadeau. The workshop session will cover a wide range of line items, including Community Services and the public pool, the district’s capital improvement plan, school facilities and maintenance, transportation, and instructional support. Nadeau’s initial budget proposal calls for a 3.3 percent, $712,621 hike in spending, about half of which includes a new mandate that half of all teacher retirement checks be paid at the local level. Although Cape Elizabeth had been told by the Maine Department of Education to expect a 9.4 percent ($190,640) boost to its state subsidy, the school department expects a $280,000 drop in Medicaid reimbursements, largely for special education costs. On Monday, a largely anonymous group known as Cape Advocates for Public Education, which was last active in November when opposing the $6 million library bond, circulated an email claiming that the state general purpose aid for education in Cape, while up year-to-year, is off $200,000 from what was expected because “the governor uses post-curtailment numbers for school spending in his biennial budget.” That curtailment, announced in December, cost Cape about $196,000 in state funding. All told, the portion of the school budget that needs to come from local taxes under the 2014 school budget is slated to jump 3.8 percent to $19.6 million. According to figures supplied by Town Hall, that will add 41 cents per $1,000 of property valuation to the property tax rate, meaning the median home assessed at $314,000 can expect a $129 tax hike to support school services. The school board has two additional budget workshops scheduled, on March 19 and March 26, the latter of which is expected to include a board vote to adopt the budget and send it to the Town Council.

Cape campers

While the school board wrangles over the cost to educated children, teens also will be a topic at tonight’s meeting of the Cape Elizabeth Planning Board. In addition to work on the town’s subdivision ordinance and future open space panning report, the board is slated to take up the issue of summer day camps. Last year, complaints about property owners renting shorefront homes resulted in one homeowner filing a counter-complaint about so-called “summer camps” run by local teens. The town’s former code enforcement officer, Bruce Smith, subsequently decreed that the “camps,” generally run by older teens for up to 10 younger children on themes such as sports or drama, often with limited parental supervision, do not meet the letter of the law in Cape Elizabeth. Local ordinances speak to two types of home day care, but not the camps, described by Councilor David Sherman as a “traditional practice” in Cape when he asked his peers to charge the Planning Board with making the camps a permitted use under local zoning rules. According to Town Planner Maureen O’Meara, that means the board will have to craft language adding the camps, which generally run for no more than four weeks each summer, as a third type of day care.

Cape allows for “home day care” of up to six children younger than age 16, or of two adults with a permit form the code enforcement officer. Objection to such a use from any neighbor sends a facility to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a conditional use permit. A “day care facility” for up to three adults or seven children in a residence, or any number in a dedicated facility requires more stringent site plan review from the Planning Board. Both types of day care require a fenced-in play area as well as a dedicated vehicle pick-up and drop-off zone.

Candidates’ night

Candidates for an open spot on the South Portland City Council will get their one public debate tonight, starting at 7 p.m. at City Hall. The forum, sponsored by the South Portland/Cape Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce will feature three of the four candidates. Rob Schreiber, 47, of Stanford Street, has a conflict with his job at AAA Northern New England and cannot attend. The nine-year Planning Board veteran will instead have a friend on hand to read an opening statement on his behalf. The other three candidates include school board chairman Rick Carter, 50, of Thompson Street, retiree Bob Foster, 64, a member of the city’s energy and recycling committee, and Michael Pock, 66, a self-employed carpenter. Absentee voting already is underway. Polls will be open at the community center on Nelson Road on Tuesday, March 12, from 7 a.m.-8 p.m.

Scarborough to say no?

Looking ahead to tomorrow, one of the agenda items on tap for the Scarborough Town Council is a resolution formally opposing the biennial state budget presented by Gov. Paul LePage. At the council’s most recent meeting, Feb. 20, a handful of residents rose to urge passage of the resolution, using a template circulated by the Maine People’s Alliance, which claims to have volunteers trying to pass it at more than 50 municipalities statewide. “MPA members Jene Leng and Betsy Kaufer are taking the lead there” in Scarborough,” said Alliance director Mike Tipping past week. Town Manager Tom Hall said some of the Feb. 20 contingent also reported working for the Democratic Party. The nonpartisan nature of municipal governance notwithstanding, Hall said, “a number of councilors expressed interest in the idea,” which South Portland City Council unanimously adopted Feb. 4. According to the resolution, reworded to better fit Scarborough, the elimination of state revenue sharing, proposed by LePage to help balance the state budget, will cost the town $2.6 million if it survives legislative scrutiny. That and other changes to general assistance funding, “homestead” tax exemptions and “circuit breaker” relief for property tax and rents, as well as a shift from the town to the state of commercial excise taxes, could have a severe impact on local taxpayers, said Hall. As proposed, the governor’s budget promises to increase the average property tax bill in Scarborough 5.37 percent, or $225. Asked to comment on the resolution vote, Gov. LePage’s spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, wrote in an email that LePage is unlikely to be swayed by complaints and opposing resolutions that do not come accompanied by alternative solutions. “While we appreciate communities having conversations about this, Gov. LePage has presented a balanced budget proposal and would like to hear other ideas for structural changes that will lead to a more efficient delivery of government services,” she wrote.

Today’s public meetings:

• Cape Elizabeth Board of Education budget workshop, 6:30 p.m. in the high school library.

• Cape Elizabeth Planning Board workshop, 7 p.m. in town hall (Jordan room).

• South Portland City Council candidates forum, 7 p.m. at city hall.

Wednesday’s public meetings:

• Scarborough Town Council/Board of Education joint audit workshop, 6 p.m. at town hall.

• Scarborough Town Council, 7 p.m. at town hall.

• South Portland Board of Assessment Review, 7 p.m. at city hall.


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