CAPE ELIZABETH — As the Town Council considers a municipal budget that would reduce the town portion of the tax rate by 2 cents, the School Board is reviewing the first draft of a fiscal year 2019 budget that would raise the school portion of the tax rate by $1.45, or 11.4 percent.

The first draft of the roughly $25.7 million school budget calls for a spending increase of 3.5 percent, or nearly $879,000, over this year’s budget of $24.9 million.

If passed, the combined municipal and school budget would increase the tax rate by 7.9 percent, from $18 per $1,000 of assessed value to $19.43. The owner of a $300,000 home would see the annual tax bill rise $429, from $5,400 to $5,829.

Also driving the school budget increase is an 8 percent hike in the cost of health insurance, which Business Manager Catherine Messmer said is one of the School Department’s biggest costs. In addition, the state reduced its education subsidy by 40 percent to $875,000.

The draft budget does not include engineering and architect fees for a $27 million renovation project being considered by the School Board, or priority items requested by the school administration such as a learning strategist and a special education teacher at Pond Cove Elementary School and more ed tech and custodial and maintenance support throughout the district. The priority items would increase the budget by almost $608,000, adding another 36 cents to the tax rate.

The proposed budget, described by School Board Finance Committee Chairman John Voltz as “flat,” projects enrollment will decline by 0.4 percent. Voltz said the budget primarily reflects negotiated increases in salaries and benefits.

During a Feb. 27 workshop, Voltz said the draft was a “base budget” put out as a first public draft. “We have a lot of work to do to wrap our heads around what that means,” he said.

The Finance Committee will hold another budget workshop starting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the high school library, and then consider adopting a budget on April 10.

Town Manager Matt Sturgis has proposed a $12.3 million municipal budget for fiscal year 2019, which would reduce the municipal portion of the tax rate by 2 cents, or 0.4 percent.

This year’s town budget is just over $12.1 million, about $109,900 less than Sturgis’ proposed budget for 2019. The proposed increase in spending would be offset by a revenue increase of about $98,000, or 2 percent, from sources other than the property tax, which is expected to increase by 0.2 percent.

“Residents have been buying newer motor vehicles and thus monthly collections have been improving,” Sturgis said. The budget projects about $5.2 million in vehicle excise taxes, up $55,000 from this year.

Personnel costs account for $6.3 million, or 49 percent, of the total proposed budget, including increasing fire and recycling facility personnel and a $310,000 increase in the town’s legal budget in anticipation of upcoming lawsuits over paper streets.

The budget also plans for significant capital purchases throughout the fiscal year, including a new ladder truck and ambulance and the second phase of the Hill Way and Scott Dyer Road reconstruction project.

During the Town Council’s regular meeting April 9, residents can share their thoughts on the draft budget during the public comment period.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be contacted at at 781-3661, ext. 183 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Read this story in The Forecaster.