In a record turnout, Scarborough voters on Tuesday narrowly approved the second attempt to get a school budget passed the polls.

In the final tally, 1,490 voters (52.3 percent) said “Yes” to the $38.8 million operating budget for the 2013-2014, while 1,332 voted “No.”

The 18 percent voter turnout was nearly double the traffic on May 14 – which was in itself a record for a ballot limited to just the school budget validation – when voters rejected the budget 898-643.

The school board reacted by making a $54,000 cut to the budget, which the Town Council approved without further reduction after more than 200 residents packed the first reading of the revised budget, and another attended the final reading. While a handful of speakers at those sessions complained about local property taxes, which have shot up 22.6 percent in the last four years, and are slated to take another 7.9 percent jump with Tuesday’s vote, most who took the podium to voice their belief that the Scarborough School system is actually falling behind those is surrounding towns by growing spending just 3.87 percent this year.

Many of those who spoke faulted parents for failing to show up at the first vote May 14, the conventional wisdom being that the drive to turn down the budget was led by senior citizens and others on a fixed income, as well as by owners of beachfront property, which saw a bump in assessed values this past year.

Of those who voted in the second round, 1,349 (48.5 percent) checked a box indicating the revised budget is still “too high.” Another 938 called the budget “too low,” while 496 said it was “acceptable.”

There was much talk on social media about “unapproved” roadside signs that cropped up around town in the days before the vote, urging residents to again turn down the budget. Because Scarborough has more than 15,000 residents, campaign advocates generally have to file with the town as a political action committee, and must put a disclosure with contact information on signage. However, Town Clerk Tody Justice said Wednesday morning that after checking with the Maine Ethics Commission, there appears to have been no violation of law.

“They said if they don’t spend more than $1,500 they don’t have to put a disclosure or file a PAC,” said Justice. “Of course, I said, without it [a disclosure] I wouldn’t have known who to contact if they had.”

Justice noted that a few pro-budget signs also cropped up around town, as well.

In South Portland, where the result never seemed in doubt, a commanding majority (75.8 percent) approved a $43 million school budget, 591-189.

Also prevailing, though by a slighter margin, was the vote on whether to continue the public validation process for another three years. That passed 465-311, a 59.9 percent margin.

Slightly more than 4 percent of registered voters participated in the decision.

South Portland ballots did not include the non-binding too high/too low question.


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