SCARBOROUGH — For the first time in recent history, voters overwhelmingly approved the school budget.

The School Department’s $56 million budget passed by a margin of almost 3-1 Tuesday, 1,814 to 644.

Residents also elected John Cloutier to fill the remaining half of a three-year Town Council term that expires in November 2020. Former Councilor Shawn Babine, who also serves in the state House, resigned as of Monday, June 10.

Town Clerk Tody Justice said voter turnout was 14%.

“I’m pleasantly surprised by the results. The people of Scarborough did their homework, showed up and expressed their opinion,” said Cloutier, who won the council seat by 138 votes, 1,252 to 1,114, against opponent Jessica Holbrook. “I didn’t think the odds were in my favor, but I am honored I won and looking forward to working hard for this town.”

Holbrook, a former town councilor and former council chairwoman, was endorsed by the grassroots group SMARTtaxes, or Scarborough Maine Advocates for Reasonable Taxes, for being “fiscally responsible” and for her previous experience in local politics.

They suggested Cloutier, who has no experience in local politics, has shown “little interest” in keeping taxes affordable and supports major projects “without taking into consideration the significant tax increases associated.”

“That’s bull,” Cloutier said in response to the group’s claim. “I haven’t spoken to them. This is a complete misrepresentation of where I stand. I have a lot of relevant experience I bring to the table and will work hard to address everyone’s needs.”

Holbrook said she is humbled that so many people stepped up to support her, and she met a lot of great people during the process. She said Cloutier’s lack of experience won’t stop him from doing the job well.

“Fresh eyes and fresh ears are always a good thing on the council,” she said. “He’ll be taking on a learning curve, but there are great people on the council that are open to talking and sharing, and I’m sure he will do well.”

The sweeping approval of the school budget, which will increase $4.4 million over the current year, was in stark contrast to recent history. Budget approval required two referendums in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2017; three in 2013, and was narrowly approved by 98 votes last year.

“We’ve been working hard to simplify our language and increase transparency and communication about the school budget process while also articulating our unmet needs,” Superintendent of Schools Julie Kukenberger said. “We appreciate the collaboration between the Town Council and the School Board to advocate for what we need, and are thankful the community supported us.”

The combined municipal and school budget of $68.8 million, a 4% increase from this year’s $66.1 million, will mean a 2.99% tax increase over this year’s tax rate.

Gross operating expenses for the town increased by 5.2% over the prior year’s budgeted level, while school gross operating budget expenses increased by 6%.

The combined budget adds 49 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to the property tax rate. Taxpayers will provide $2.7 million more to the town and schools in fiscal year 2020 than in the current year, although Town Manager Tom Hall said the number is likely to change after a residential property revaluation is completed.

Voters Tuesday also decided to continue the school budget validation process for another three years, 1,777 to 660, and approved a plan to join the Greater Sebago Education Alliance Regional Service Center, 2,133 to 171.

Krysteana Scribner can be reached at [email protected] or 780-9094. Follow her on Twitter: @krysteana2016.

For the first time in recent history, Scarborough voters overwhelmingly approved a school budget on Tuesday. The $56 million budget passed by a margin of almost 3-1.

Cloutier

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