The warmer days of spring have finally arrived in Scarborough. If you are at all like me, you are out and about as much as possible, having endured the stress and rigors of this past COVID year. Fortunately, thanks to the vigilance of all of you and the science of vaccination, it appears that the end may be in sight! For that, we should all give a sigh of relief.

Spring is also the start of the annual budget planning. Unlike other years in recent history, we have just experienced a painful budget cycle full of economic uncertainty and quick pivots to ensure that town and school operations remained as stable as possible given the world in which we found ourselves. As a result, there were some actions made necessary by the times that will necessitate restoration in Fiscal Year 2022. When added to the usual ongoing expenses and revenue projections, the initial readout of the budget has come in at 7.74 to 4.74 percent above the Town Council stated goal of 3 percent. This first readout, though, is NOT where we will end up.

In our last Council meeting, we approved in First Reading an amendment that will require the Council to meet a target of no more than 3 percent increase to the mil rate. Ongoing meetings of the Finance Committee continue to do the work necessary to meet this goal. You can track this work through the Budget Portal on the homepage of the town website.

My first year on the Town Council, we adopted a budget that increased spending 12.68 percent (FY 2014). Many factors drove that increase. Given that we are in the midst of a global pandemic that has upended everything, that initial readout of 7.74 percent is not looking so bad. Again, the Council has no intention of adopting any budget requiring that increase as evidenced by our first vote on the aforementioned amendment.

What is next, you may ask. There is a six-week process that started with the budget presentation and ends with the final reading and Council vote on May 19. The Finance Committee will be holding multiple meetings throughout April. There will be a Public Hearing on May 12. Second Reading and Council vote will occur May 19 with the school portion of the budget heading to a public validation vote per state law. That vote occurs June 15.

People are curious about the CARES ACT money that was appropriated by Congress for states and municipalities and that is currently being handled in Augusta. At the time of this writing, we are not certain of the amounts and the requirements for the use of this money. For this reason, we have not added this amount into the budget as a revenue source. It is also the reason we are pushing back the referendum on the school budget. It is our expectation that the amount and authorization will be clear before the conclusion of the budget process.

I am hopeful that folks will keep this budget in perspective. The Council understands the challenges that many families have experienced in this global pandemic. It is not our goal to create more hardships for anyone. Rather, working collaboratively with one another and avoiding unnecessary animus, is essential for all. Get involved. Reach out. Attend meetings. Speak up. Our group email is [email protected] Working together we will develop an acceptable budget.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Scarborough Town Council.

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