CAPE ELIZABETH — A $300,000 accounting error in this year’s school budget will mean a smaller increase to the education tax rate than previously thought in the proposed $28.5 million 2021 school spending plan.

“It’s a significant savings on the tax impact,” School Board member Elizabeth Scifres said.

The budget, which the board voted unanimously this week to approve and send to the town council for a vote April 27, asks for a new education tax rate of $15.12, which was initially thought to have been an increase of 5.73% over the 2020 rate of $14.30, That’s an 82-cent increase, or $205 for the owner of a $250,000 home.

But the actual base number is $14.52, not $14.30, according to district Business Manager Marcia Weeks. That means the proposed new rate of $15.12 would, if approved by the town, actually only be an increase of 4.13%. That’s a 60-cent increase, or $150 for the owner of a $250,000 home.

The difference, according to town Finance Director John Quartararo, comes from an error he admitted making when calculating the tax assessment for the 2019-20 budget back in August 2019. The school revenues should have been calculated at $2,098,487, he told The Forecaster, but they were instead recorded as $1,798,487. The new $14.52 base figure reflects the $300,000 correction.

Quartararo told the school board of the error during the meeting, when the principal item of discussion was finalizing the proposed 2021 budget at $28,490,012, an increase of $1,599,592, or 5.95%, over 2020. The board had rejected a previous budget of approximately $29 million back in early March, asking the district to make cuts to get the increase under 6%. This mandate, Weeks told The Forecaster, came before the coronavirus, and related economic uncertainty, motivated superintendents in other districts to revamp their budgets.

“We’d already made big changes,” Weeks said.

Sean Murphy 780-9094

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