Cape Elizabeth officials said this week that restoring some capital expenses that were put on hold last year, along with the addition of three new full-time teaching positions, is contributing to a proposed combined $48.4 million 2022 budget, increasing the tax rate 3.4%.

School Board member and finance committee chairperson Phil Saucier said the school board approved the district’s proposed $29.8 million 2022 budget on Tuesday, which will be presented to the town council officially on April 26.

Town Manager Matt Sturgis said the municipal gross budget stands at $16.8 million. Sturgis said both budgets combined, factoring in revenues, the county budget and townwide valuation changes, add up to $36.8 million to be raised in taxes.

That translates to an increase in the mil rate from 19.92 to 20.60, or 3.4%, Sturgis said. For the owner of a $300,000 home, that means an increase of $204 to the tax bill, he said.

Sturgis said the town council made deep cuts to the budget last year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, to ease the burden on taxpayers.

“With us, it was all capital projects,” he said. “That fell to the floor.”

This year, Sturgis said, the municipal budget includes some of those expenses, but officials have done their best to blunt the impact. For example, he said, one project included replacing light bulbs in streetlights throughout the town with new, energy-efficient LEDs. The town will do that this year, he said, but only after entering into an agreement with Central Maine Power where the power company will replace the bulbs, saving the town about $200,000.

Sturgis also noted a Willow Brook culvert replacement that needs to be installed but would have cost $400,000 if the town had included it on the budget last year. Since then, he said, officials have secured a grant that will pay for $343,000 of that expense.

Other capital expenses on the proposed 2022 budget include a new backhoe loader for $160,000 and upgrades to the Kettle Cove boat launch for $100,000.

Sturgis said municipal revenues topped $8.8 million, bolstered by a 15% increase in excise tax fee revenue over last year. Other revenue sources, such as building permits, he said, were also up.

“Those have been strong,” he said.

On the school portion of the proposed budget, Saucier said the budget includes accommodations for the pandemic. Saucier said the budget adds three new full-time teachers, one each at Pond Cove Elementary School, the middle school and the high school. Described as “math interventionists,” Saucier said the positions are there to address concerns about academic performance brought on by restrictions on instruction caused by the pandemic.

Saucier said the proposed school budget also assumes the district will go back to in-person instruction five days a week starting this fall.

“This budget has those kinds of funds in there,” he said.

After the joint council/school board meeting on April 26, there will be another budget meeting on April 27, followed by a public hearing on the combined budget on May 3. The council is expected to give its final approval to the municipal budget and send the school budget to referendum on May 10. Voters will have their say on the school budget on June 8.

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