SCARBOROUGH – This week the Scarborough Town Council was set to vote on the school budget that will go to voters for final approval during a town-wide referendum on June 10, as well as a request for $2 million from the town’s land fund.

The council was scheduled to meet on Wednesday, June 4, after the Current’s deadline. However, according to Town Manager Tom Hall, it was expected to approve total school spending of $43.8 million for the new fiscal year, which starts on July 1.

That amount includes the costs for general education, as well as adult education, the school nutrition program and the school department’s debt payments, Hall said in materials prepared for the council’s review.

With the $29.3 million municipal budget already approved, Scarborough residents could see a 48 cent increase in the tax rate per $1,000 of valuation if the school budget, as proposed, is ultimately approved by voters in next week’s referendum.

In the materials prepared for the council, Hall said that the new tax rate would be $15.25 per $1,000 of valuation, which would add $144 to the annual tax bill of a home valued at $300,000.

In other action this week, the council was scheduled to hold a first reading on a recommendation from the town’s Parks and Conservation Land Board to use $2 million from Scarborough’s Land Acquisition Reserve Fund to assist the land trust in its purchase of the Benjamin Farm property on Pleasant Hill Road.

The farm consists of 135 acres and the Scarborough Land Trust has until the end of the year to raise the $2.5 million needed to buy the farm and permanently conserve its open fields, woods and wetlands.

In a letter sent to the Parks and Conservation Land Board this past winter, Jeremy Wintersteen, chairman of the land trust’s acquisition committee, said preserving the farm has been a long-term, top priority for the land trust.

In its letter to the Town Council recommending expenditure of the $2 million from the land fund, the Parks and Conservation Land Board said that the Benjamin Farm is “an important enough piece that we believe it is well worth the expenditure.”

If the council approves using $2 million from the town’s land fund, the amount remaining for future land acquisition would be reduced to just under $430,000, according to the land board.

In its letter to the council, the board said that the Benjamin Farm “scores high in all of its values and should be considered an exemplary model of land conservation.”

The Scarborough Town Council is weighing a request to use $2 million from the town’s land fund to help purchase the 135-acre Benjamin Farm on Pleasant Hill Road. 

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