SCARBOROUGH — The proposed 2021 budget on May 6 sparked some concerns in the public regarding staff cuts, but the Town Council said that this discussion is no where close to being over.

Brought forward on May 6 was a $70 million budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2021, with a 0 percent mil increase for the municipal side and a 1.6  percent increase on the school’s side. This is down from the proposal on April 8, which had been a 5.8 percent increase in total.

Councilors Peter Hayes and Don Hamill clarified that this first reading presentation was not representative of the final second reading vote that will come later in the year.

Members of the public raised concerns about the school’s end of the budget, and resident Daniel Kelman asked the council to think about saving staff positions that would be cut under this model.

“If I understand the discussion properly, it seems like there is going be a pretty significant reduction in personnel at the schools, meaning all the lead teacher positions, department heads would be eliminated as well as there would be a number of positions that would be laid off,” he said. “I understand there’s a combination of positions that would simply be not filled that are vacancies now, but there are if I’m reading this correctly at least five individuals would would lose their employment. Obviously, that’s an impact to their families but also an impact to the school because I assume that the loss of those positions means the students would be folded into other classes.”

Retiring Scarborough School’s teacher Lisa Vidinha said that the classrooms face challenges that require staff to be present.

“The reality is our schools have big needs and those needs are people,” she said. “We do not have enough people on staff right now to carry the load of the new education we’re getting. I’m not talking online — I’m talking in the classroom.”

Resident Marvin Gates said that he approved of the municipal side’s 0 percent mil rate increase because he and his wife are living on a fixed income and their seasonal business is in jeopardy this summer.

“The town has the time to present yet another idea for the mil rate that prevents any layoffs,” he said. “That’s one more piece of the puzzle to see.”

Members of the council agreed that they did not want to lay off individuals. Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina said that she hopes that the finance committees and council can find “creative go-arounds.”

“I want to make sure that whatever we do, we maintain personnel to the greatest degree possible and look for other places where we can shave,” she said. “That’s just where I’m coming from. I was a little concerned, and I’m coming at this as a citizen. I hate to see teaching positions eliminated if you don’t have to do it. Where would you be without your teachers?”

The Board of Education “took no joy” in this potential reworking, said Council Chair Paul Johnson.

Councilor Betsy Gleysteen said that the current state of the economy is the primary reason cuts need to be made.

“This isn’t about cutting for the sake of cutting,” she said. “It’s not the normal Scarborough budget tension … The money is just going to be less in a lot of these categories, and we have a lot of unknowns like how much is the state going to make up. The school actually already talked to the state about Covid-19 reimbursement, and I won’t quote the number but it was pretty low.”

Johnson said that he’s ready for the town and school finance committees to use the model as a “launching pad” to get to work.

“The time of superficially talking about this is over,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the actual — the tough stuff in the field, so to speak.”

According to the meeting’s agenda materials, there will be a public hearing on June 3 about the budget.

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