SCARBOROUGH — This is shaping up to be a tough year to determine how the town and school budgets, unveiled at Wednesday’s Town Council meeting, will impact the average taxpayer.

The proposed fiscal year 2020 budget, as outlined by Town Manager Tom Hall and Superintendent of Schools Julie Kukenberger, calls for town, school and capital improvement spending of $101.2 million. If nothing changes, taxpayers will be asked to contribute $70.1 million – an increase of $3.9 million, or 6%, over the current year.

The owner of a $300,000 home would pay $213-$270 more in taxes a year, depending on the town’s valuation, which won’t be known until a residential revaluation is complete in June or July.

That’s well after the council and School Board approve their budgets and voters have weighed in on the school spending plan in the June 11 validation vote.

“It is tough to predict,” Hall said at the April 3 meeting. “What it means for the individual homeowner depends on how the revaluation comes back for their property.”

According to the budget presented April 3, the tax rate is expected to be between $17.20-$17.39 per $1,000 in real estate valuation. As in previous years, the final tax rate won’t be set by the assessor until August. The projected tax rate increase is expected to be between 4.33 percent and 5.46 percent.

What taxpayers and residents can expect, however, is an increase in spending as the town and schools attempt to address needs in their respective departments.

On the municipal side, Hall said, increases in his $36 million gross budget include $183,500 in new staffing requests and the creation of a $171,100 equipment reserve. The staffing includes four new firefighters (who would start in April 2020 and represent a cost of more than $85,000 for the remainder of fiscal year 2020), a maintenance worker shared by the Public Works and Community Services Department (almost $66,000) and a social service navigator in the Police Department (more than $75,600).

While there were other positions requested, Hall said he tried to be thoughtful about the positions requested.

The new firefighters are part of the town’s push to shift from relying on per diem firefighters to a department of full-time personnel. The social services navigator would work with residents with mental health or substance use issues and serve as a resource for those involved with domestic violence, sexual assault, homelessness or human trafficking.

Hall said the increase to the municipal budget also includes shifting $707,000 in capital improvement projects into the town and school operating budgets. Other major increases for the upcoming fiscal year are a $400,000 increase in debt services with the first year of the public safety building project being realized and a $90,000 increase in recycling due to the way ecomaine is charging for disposal of recyclables.

Shifting more projects, especially those that cost less than $100,000, from bonding to the town’s general fund has been something the finance committee has discussed over the years.

“It’s been a longstanding goal of the finance committee,” Hall told councilors. “It remains to be seen, if this is the year we make that shift.”

Kukenberger is budgeting $1.2 million in new investments, including $629,000 for required services, $566,000 in new staffing requests, and an additional $14,600 in K-5 instructional supplies.

The required services, she said, are driven by students’ individualized education plans. The increased staffing – three new primary school teachers and STEM and career pathways positions at the high school – is based on increased enrollment being projected at the K-2 level and the need for additional STEM and career exploration at the high school.

The enrollment bubble, Kukenberger said, will work its way up through the school ranks and is “something our community needs to pay attention to.”

The April 3 discussion was just the first step in the budget review process.

“We will be making changes along the way based on what we hear from the community and those items still in motion,” Kukenberger said.

The proposed budget can be found online at https://sites.google.com/scarboroughmaine.org/budgetportal.

Kukenberger said there are still a few unknowns in the school budget, including the final cost for health insurance, the collective bargaining agreement with the teachers union, special education enrollment and whether the district joins the Greater Sebago Education Alliance, a question that will be put to voters June 11.

“As our process unfolds, our numbers will get reviewed and our budget will get refined,” Hall said. “I expect we will end up in a much different place than where we are starting.”

Michael Kelley can be reached at 780-9106 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @mkelleynews.

Edited April 8, 2019, to include the range of the projected tax rate increase.

 

Scarborough budget calendar

The Scarborough School Board’s first reading of the school budget was set for April 4.

The Town Council will get its first crack at the town budget at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 10. The council will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 1.

A joint Town Council-School Board workshop is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 8.

The Town Council is expected to finalize the budget May 15. The School Board will follow the next night.

There will be a series of neighborhood budget meetings at Scarborough Public Library, Monday, April 8, at 2 p.m.; Town Hall, Thursday, April 11, 6 p.m. and Thursday, May 2, 10 a.m.; Dunstan Fire Station, Tuesday, April 23, 6 p.m.,  and Wentworth School, Saturday, May 4, 10 a.m.

Scarborough Superintendent of Schools Julie Kukenberger and Town Manager Tom Hall unveil their proposed fiscal year 2020 budgets April 3.

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