On Wednesday, the Scarborough Town Council got its first look at the proposed new fiscal year municipal budget, which combined with the school budget and the county tax could raise the mil rate by 99 cents per $1,000 of valuation.

The municipal budget, as proposed by Town Manager Tom Hall is $29.5 million, which represents an increase in spending of a little more than $500,000 from this year’s budget for a nearly 5 percent hike overall.

The proposed school budget for fiscal year 2014-2015, as presented by Superintendent George Entwistle last week, is $43.4 million. That represents a nearly $4 million increase from this year’s spending, or a percentage increase approaching 10 percent.

The first reading on the combined school and municipal budget, which is $57.9 million, is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 2, at Town Hall. The public hearing on the combined budget will be held at 7 p.m. on April 16 and final adoption is expected on May 7.

The municipal budget, like the proposed school budget, includes several new positions, as well as investments in new equipment and technology. Both Hall and Entwistle said their budgets represent an attempt to recover from the cuts made in recent years.

On Wednesday, Hall acknowledged that both budgets fall short of the Town Council’s stated goal of no tax increase, but also called the combined budget “a reasonable starting point” for further debate on spending.

All of the councilors present at Wednesday’s special workshop expressed disappointment and dismay with the nearly 10 percent increase in the proposed school budget and also said they’d like to support some of the new positions and capital needs on the town side, if possible.

Councilor Katherine St. Clair said, “On first glance I am not excited about this budget, especially on the school side.” Councilor Ed Blais went even further and called the proposed tax hike “outrageous. We need to find ways of weaning some of these dollars.”

Councilor James Benedict agreed and said, “My phone has rung off the wall in the past week with people complaining that the town is becoming too expensive to live in. My personal property taxes have more than doubled in the past 10 years. The school side of the budget is not what I would call fair and reasonable.”

Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina said that while she’s supportive of public education, “I was disappointed when I saw the school budget. I am disappointed in this 10-percent increase.”

Councilor Bill Donovan added that while he understands that things have worn out and staff has not been replaced, “all seven of us on the council were in agreement that we were striving for a flat budget. So this is very disappointing.”

Councilor Jessica Holbrook, chairwoman of the town’s Finance Committee, said, “I’m certainly not thrilled and I don’t think there’s any support on the Town Council to move (the school budget) forward.”

Holbrook added that the Finance Committee has its work cut out and said the group would begin meeting next week.

See the April 3 Current for more information on this story.

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