CAPE ELIZABETH — The town council on Wednesday approved a $6.8 million 2021 municipal budget that includes funds to replace the artificial turf at Hannaford Field.

In other business, councilors voted 5-1 to amend the order to re-open Fort Williams Park to allow vehicles beginning June 1, after  the park was re-opened to foot traffic on April 28. The amendment also means the leash law will remain in effect in the park, and visitors will continue to be encouraged to wear masks.

The high school field, which is used for football, soccer and lacrosse, was scheduled for replacement this year, but concerns about regional economic impacts of the coronavirus had put the project in jeopardy; officials debated as recently as May 18 about whether to include a critical $65,000 line item necessary to float a five-year bond to pay for part of the project’s $600,000 price tag.

The final municipal budget, according to Town Manager Matthew Sturgis, is a 2.4% decrease over this year’s spending plan, and results in a 3.46% decrease to the tax rate. That adds up to a decrease of 14 cents, or $35 less for the owner of a $250,000 home.

But the ultimate combined tax rate impact remains to be seen. The council still has not signed off on the school department budget, which is scheduled for an online public hearing on Monday, June 8, and council vote Monday, June 15, before it goes to referendum in July.

The proposed school budget is $26.3 million, a 4.7% increase over 2020. If that budget is approved as is, Sturgis said, the total combined net impact to the tax rate will be a 0.9% increase. That adds up to 18 cents, or a $45 more for the owner of a $250,000 home.

At the May 27 special town council meeting, Councilor Valerie Deveraux called the increase “outrageous,” and voiced her displeasure at what she saw as a lack of effort on the school department’s part to cut the budget.

“I am extremely disappointed that they would not even consider sitting down and discussing this,” she said.

Efforts to reach Superintendent Donna Wolfrom and school board Chairwoman Heather Altenburg were unsuccessful.

Councilor James Garvin, who chaired Wednesday meeting in Valerie Adams’ absence, said councilors added the turf project to the budget after receiving “a good amount of input from folks.”

The council voted 5-1 to pass the budget with the line item added. Councilor Christopher Straw was the lone dissenting vote.

“I want to see our town devoting funding to other uses than this,” he said previously.

the council discussed the ongoing emergency order, scheduled to expire on June 30. The order was put in place on March 25 as a localized version of the statewide orders put in place by Gov. Janet Mills in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, the council has amended the orders on April 1 and April 28, both times to mimic changes to the governor’s orders.

Sean Murphy (207)780-9094

Email: [email protected]

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