SCARBOROUGH — Scarborough town councilors say while the $70 million 2021 school and town budget is far from ready to present to voters they suggested more cuts  may be coming.

The council voted Wednesday to “model” a budget that presented a zero increase over 2020, to see what the deepest cuts would look like, but amid pleas from the public to save teachers’ jobs that are already on the chopping block, councilors said they want to find a way to make the cuts without cutting in-classroom staff.

At the May 6 meeting, the council voted to accept first reading on the budget, including an amendment to reflect a reduction of more than $2.7 million in cuts from Town Manager Tom Hall and School Superintendent Sandy Prince.

On the school side, the budget, if finalized, would include four “tiers” of cuts adding up to more than $2 million, and eliminate as many as five “full-time equivalent” classroom teacher positions. The cuts, if accepted, would ultimately produce an increase to the tax rate of 1.6%. Based on a current tax rate of $14.70, that increase amounts to 24 cents, or nearly $60 for the owner of a $250,000 home.

It was the possibility of losing teachers that brought on a response from members of the public attending the virtual meeting, including Daniel Kelman, of 220 Pine Point Road.

“My concern is that that would result in additional layoffs and add increases in class size,” he said of the town ultimately accepting all the proposed cuts.

Marvin Gates, of 423 Black Point Road, said he and his wife were on fixed incomes, so he favored cutting as much of the budget as possible. He called a 2% increase “very fair,” and was “very pleased” with the 1.6% proposed increase, but said he, too, wanted officials to find a way to do it without laying off teachers.

Lisa Vidinha, a kindergarten teacher at Blue Point School, said she’s retiring, but also urged officials to keep her colleagues employed.

“The reality is, our schools have big needs, and those needs are people,” she said.

In response, several councilors, including Jean-Marie Caterina, said they would work to prevent teacher layoffs.

“I hate to see teaching positions eliminated if you don’t have to do it,” she said.

The town charter requires a final budget to be presented to voters in 60 days. Council Chairman Paul Johnson stressed that accepting the current cuts into the record Wednesday night was nothing more than a “launching pad” for more work.

Comments are not available on this story.