The Town Council tasks its Finance Committee with conducting a detailed review of the proposed municipal budget. The Finance Committee held the first in a series of department budget reviews on Tuesday, April 19. The committee heard presentations from Scarborough Economic Development Corporation (SEDCO), Scarborough Public Library, Scarborough Community Services, and Scarborough Public Works.

Departmental budget reviews are a key part of the municipal budget process, which began on March 30 when the town manager first presented the proposed Fiscal Year 2023 budget. In total there will be five review sessions of department budgets requests and capital equipment and project requests.  In the end, the Finance Committee will make recommendations for budget adjustments before a final reading and adoption by the Town Council on May 18. All of these public meetings are held in person at Town Hall and streamed virtually.

A rise in operational costs was a recurring theme that emerged among the departments that presented in the first review meeting. SEDCO initiated the conversation with an overview of their budget, up 3.8 percent from last year. The major budget drivers behind this increase were mainly a result of salary and benefit increases from the small staff. The rent for the office space has remained unchanged for several years, but it will increase due to costs for building utilities.

The Scarborough Public Library is also experiencing increases in utility costs, contributing to a 3 percent budget increase. Their gas and electricity usages are significant, in part due to keeping fans on for better air circulation. The building is also in need of age-related maintenance and repairs. The Public Works Department acknowledged that their cost increases are the same being felt townwide. It is affecting them mainly through their vehicle fleet — accommodating for fuel, parts, materials, and labor. The 4.75 percent increase to their budget reflects these increased costs.

The Community Services Department, which hosts a number of ongoing programs at the Hub on 418 Payne Road, is identifying these inflation-related increases, too. They are returning to pre-pandemic levels of programs, and part-time staff is critical to their operating model. The volume of hours needed to accommodate program needs, paired with rising wages to secure the positions for qualified staff, is a major budget driver.

These departments all offer public services and continue to find clear ways to learn about what the community is seeking and to respond accordingly. Many of these needs were made clear during the pandemic. SEDCO spoke to their value of bringing Scarborough businesses and the community together, whether through making business resources available or creating a business-to-consumer Facebook page for consolidated updates in real time. They are also reviewing a strategic plan for the economic future of Scarborough over the next three to five years, specifically in response to the current state of town, state, and national issues/trends.

The Scarborough Public Library was able to adapt during the pandemic to expand their virtual program offerings, and has heard from the public of this value of increasing access. They also learned through the community survey that their program ratings may be affected by limited space to run these in-person, and used this as a tool to explain their goal of a Library expansion. This expansion project is included in the proposed budget as a one-time bond for $13 million that would go to voters in the fall of 2022 if approved by the Town Council. Community Services is also looking for ways to better serve the community through programs. During the pandemic, they were able to respond to community needs by offering outdoor programs. They are continuing to look for ways to increase their outdoor recreational opportunities through town-operated parks and facilities and new program development to ensure they are meeting the demands of the community.

Public Works is responding to the needs of the community with a focus on sidewalk improvements. During the pandemic, the number of residents utilizing sidewalks increased, which raised awareness of the state of the sidewalks and led to an increased number of calls to Public Works to report defects. This concern was mirrored in community survey responses. Public Works is prioritizing improving the condition of roads (paving) and doing a major investment in sidewalk maintenance. They also have plans in the budget to make traffic flow improvements by installing adaptive traffic signals along the Route One corridor, an interconnected system that is responsive to live traffic flows and will improve efficiency.

The full schedule for Finance committee department budget reviews can be found on the Budget Portal, accessed from the Town of Scarborough website homepage. All meetings are recorded and available to view back on the Town of Scarborough Public Meetings YouTube channel. To learn more about project details and costs, review the full proposed FY2023 budget on the Budget Portal and follow along for ongoing updates through the review process.

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