Holbrook details Scarborough’s upcoming vote

As a community, we will vote again on the school operating budget on July 7. This letter is an effort to share and explain some of the differences between the current FY2016 school budget proposal, the failed proposal and the differing roles of the council and school board.

Following the failed referendum in June, the council revised the school budget proposal with two amendments. The first leverages any additional General Purpose Aid against the increased property tax request. This amendment can only come to fruition if the funding is received prior to the first property tax commitment in August. If additional GPA is received after the August tax commitment, the funds cannot be used for this year.

The second amendment passed by council is a reduction of $500,000 to the school operating budget. The school board and the council have made efforts to recognize that over the last few years, $250,000 of unspent funds generally rolls into the undesignated fund balance. The BOE has also identified a position for a shared position opportunity in food service, resulting in a $50,000 savings. That leaves a total of $200,000 in decreased spending needing to be identified.

The Town Council does not have line item authority in the school budget. What that means, is that the council has no ability to designate how the voter-authorized funding should or should not be spent. It is to the sole discretion of the School Board.

The council has authorized $425,000 in undesignated fund balance for use in the FY2016 school operating budget. The council previously authorized $800,000 for use in the FY2015 budget. The town will be at or near the allowed minimum balance. These funds are only a one-time funding opportunity.

When the town utilizes fund balance to offset funding gaps, it becomes a built-in revenue deficit for the next fiscal year. The hard conversations and search for shared opportunities being made by the school board currently will continue to be issues for conversation in the next fiscal year.

It is my sincere hope that as a community we can recognize that there has to be a middle ground. The proposed budget offers a revenue hole that is partially plugged, concessions are being considered, efficiencies are being identified and there is opportunity for greater tax relief with GPA funding when the state finally pulls their budget together.

My personal civic vote will be yes for the school budget and I hope you can join me. Even though I am unhappy with the current state of discussions within the school board on how to get to the remaining $200,000.

Jessica Holbrook

Scarborough Town Councilor

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