The Scarborough Town Council is expected to pass a new fiscal year budget totaling $81.7 million, which covers both municipal and school spending, during a meeting on May 18 at 7 p.m.

The new budget is up $3.5 million from the current spending package of $78.2 million and represents a possible property tax increase of 51 cents per $1,000 of valuation, according to town officials. That means for a home valued at $300,000, the budget would add $153 to the homeowner’s annual tax bill.

Last week the council held a public hearing on the budget, which elicited no comment from residents. As a result, the Town Council and the Board of Education canceled a final joint workshop, which was scheduled for this week.

In an attempt to avoid multiple referendums on the school budget, which has occurred each of the past three years, town and school leaders made a concerted effort during this year’s budget process to work together early and often.

That strategy has paid off, according to Town Councilor Chris Caiazzo, who interpreted the lack of discussion at the May 4 public hearing as an “endorsement that our process is working well.”

Although members of the public were silent last week, some skepticism about the proposed combined budget does exist.

Resident Steve Hanley, who frequently blogs about town government at and who writes an occasional opinion column for the Current, isn’t convinced the budget process has improved.

If anything, he said residents are being “lulled into a false sense of security by an artificially low tax rate increase.”

The modest tax increase proposed this year is due in part to use of a leftover $1.6 million from construction of the new Wentworth School, he said, which means residents are going be surprised in subsequent years as the town gets less state aid for education and district expenditures increase.

The proposed budget “seems to be sailing through the way it was intended to,” Hanley said, and “I think that’s at the expense of the taxpayers, really.”

The school budget referendum is scheduled for June 14 and Town Council Chairman Bill Donovan said it’s his hope that residents will pass the budget on the first try.

Sun Media Wire staff writer Kate Irish Collins contributed to this report.

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or [email protected] Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA.

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