SCARBOROUGH — Scarborough town and school officials have until next week’s town council meeting to figure out how to keep the 2021 budget from raising taxes any more than 2%, and this week they said it will be difficult and painful – but it will happen.

“We do have a path forward,” Town Manager Tom Hall said in an interview earlier this week.

Hall and School Superintendent Sandy Prince presented the original proposed net budget, nearly $50 million, to the council on April 8. Next week, they will present the same budget but with a series of suggested amendments, all representing cuts and fund allocations that, in the end, will produce a net tax increase of approximately 1.5%, Hall said.

On the town side, Hall said “the majority of the savings” comes not from budget cuts, but from cutting back on staff hours. He said all non-union staff will be working reduced hours for the next three months, which he estimates will save a total of $525,000.

On the school side, the savings come from a series of reductions broken up into four tiers that proposes cuts ranging from canceling clubs and sports programs to, at worst, eliminating some core teaching positions.

All of the reductions add up to a total savings of just over $2 million, but Prince said he’d rather not make all the cuts if he doesn’t have to.

“My hope is not to go that deep,” he said.

School Board Chairwoman Leanne Kazilionis said she feared if the council ultimately elects to make all the proposed cuts, “This is going to change the face of a lot of things for our schools.”

Both Prince and Kazilionis also acknowledged that the council is asking for these cuts to account for ongoing economic uncertainty relating to the coronavirus.

“You’ve got to be mindful of what’s going on with the economy,” Prince said. “There are a lot of unknowns.”

The school’s proposed net budget to be raised by taxes stands at just under $50 million, an increase of $2.5 million (5.2%) over the 2020 budget. On the municipal side, the net budget is $18.7 million, an increase of just under $400,000 (2.1%) over the 2020 budget. When adding in county and capital expense changes, the total increase, according to Hall, stands at 5.8%. However, Hall noted that valuation projections for 2021 might adjust that increase down by as much as 0.38%. Given a current tax rate of $14.70, the 5.8% increase adds up to 85 cents, or $212.50 for the owner of a $250,000 home.

But the council told school and town officials that the increase was too much and instructed them to come up with a revised budget, one that will not create a combined tax hike of any more than 2%. The council tabled the official first reading until its meeting on Wednesday, May 6.

Comments are not available on this story.