The battle over Scarborough’s school budget heated up over the weekend when a new group formed to fight a proposed $500,000 spending reduction that’s set for a second validation referendum on July 7.

The Town Council approved the 1 percent reduction last Wednesday – two weeks after town voters rejected a $43.8 million school spending proposal for the fiscal year starting July 1 that was up $1.8 million, or 4.3 percent.

On Thursday, Stacey Neumann, a mother of three whose eldest just finished kindergarten, started a private Facebook group – “Supporters of Scarborough Schools” – that had more than 1,100 members by Monday afternoon.

“I’m very excited about the response,” Neumann said Monday. “This way, people are able to get accurate information about what the $500,000 reduction would mean.”

School officials have anticipated how they might reduce the school budget if the $500,000 reduction is approved. Possible cuts range from reducing staff stipends and curbing hiring plans to eliminating extracurricular activities such as middle school sports and fall cheering, winter wrestling and spring tennis at the high school, according to a list drafted by school officials.

“These are cuts we will never recover from,” Neumann said.

Neumann, who is a trial attorney with Murray, Plumb & Murray in Portland, said she started the closed Facebook group because inaccurate information had been posted on the open Facebook page titled “Save Scarborough Schools,” which is liked by 593 people.

The new group’s mantra, “Vote No, Too Low,” appears on fliers that members are now distributing and on lawn signs that will be available starting Wednesday.

In contrast, “Vote No, Still Too High” is the sentiment of recent posts on the Facebook page titled “Concerned Taxpayers of Scarborough,” which started in 2013 and is “liked” or followed by 227 people.

The page is administered by Andrew Gwyer, who has two students in the town’s schools. Gwyer said the movement against an increased school budget is rooted among the town’s seniors.

“I’m retired after 23 years in the Navy and one-fifth of my pension is going to property taxes,” Gwyer said. “(School officials) can’t come back year after year with a budget on the top side and not answer for it.”

“SMARTaxes,” a public Facebook group that appears to be based in Scarborough, also has several posts questioning or calling for voters to reject the reduced budget.

On June 9, town voters rejected a $43.8 million budget proposal for fiscal 2016 that was up $1.8 million or 4.3 percent over this year’s $42 million budget.

The vote was 1,719 to 1,408 against the proposed budget. On a non-binding companion question, 1,761 voters said the budget was too high, 619 said it was too low and 710 said it was just right.

With the initial school budget, the property tax rate for municipal and school services would have increased 87 cents or 5.78 percent, from $15.10 to $15.97 per $1,000 of assessed value. That would have added $261 to the annual tax bill on a $300,000 home.

With a $500,000 school budget reduction, the tax rate would increase 72 cents or 4.75 percent to $15.82 per $1,000, which would add $216 to the same tax bill.

Councilors Edward Blaise, Shawn Babine, Peter Hayes and Chairwoman Jessica Holbrook voted in favor of the $500,000 reduction, with Jean Marie Caterina and William Donovan opposed, and Katherine St. Clair absent.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: KelleyBouchard


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