The Cape Elizabeth Town Council approved a $34.2 million school budget Monday after shutting down a last-minute attempt by Councilor Timothy Reiniger to slash it by $2 million.

The budget, which passed 5-2, is up 9.3% over this year’s. It results in a 6.3% increase in property taxes to support the schools.

Reiniger sought a 3.5% budget increase with no impact on the tax rate.

“It’s still an increase,” Reiniger said at the meeting. “I want everybody to know this is not cutting the school budget, this is just creating a smaller increase over last year.”

His proposal failed 5-2, with Councilor Susan Gillis and Reiniger voting for it, but not before some heated comments from other councilors and residents at the meeting who spoke out against the proposed cut.

A $2 million cut would eliminate a total of 24 proposed and existing positions, and, according to Councilor Gretchen Noonan, it would take away $95,000 toward debt service, $50,000 for nutrition support, $30,000 for computer supplies and $25,000 for professional development, and it would not allow the purchase of a new school van.


Councilors told Reiniger the cut would be disastrous for the school system and that it was “insulting” of him to make the proposal right before the council’s final vote on the school budget.


“I just think there were appropriate times to have brought up a serious discussion about that,” Councilor Nicole Boucher said. “It’s insulting to everyone who spent months on this process; all of our staff, all of the people sitting here, all of the school board members.”

Reiniger had inquired about making an amendment to the budget proposal at a public forum May 8 but was asked to provide it in writing ahead of Monday’s council meeting.

His proposal was based on a worst-case scenario presented by the school department at budget workshops over the past few months.

“This was included in the school board’s presentation to show just how devastating this kind of cut would be,” Noonan said.

Reiniger presented data on how the school budget has trended upward since 2012 while student enrollment has declined.


“The view of my role on the Town Council … is to look at the larger trends, the larger financial situation, the town and the impact on the affordability of town,” he said. “It’s from that perspective that I am sharing these slides.”

The 9.3% increase is by far the largest of any school budget increase since 2012, he said, and his 3.5% increase would be the lowest since 2019.

Councilors said Reiniger’s presentation lacked key information.


“What we just saw ignores a tremendous amount of context,” Noonan said, including state funding, how the pandemic impacted past budgets and influenced the current needs of students.

“Your trends, as you’ve depicted, may not be reflective of all of the other indications,” Councilor Penny Jordan said.

Eliminating 24 positions would prevent the district’s efficiency in addressing post-pandemic student needs relating to academic, social and emotional support, Jordan said.


Dana Schauff, a parent of a Cape Elizabeth high schooler, middle schooler, and Pond Cove Elementary student, agreed.

“Each one of my children has struggled following the pandemic,” Shauff said. “This is not the time to be cutting from the school budget.”

Further investments in academic needs are needed, said Michele Pezzuti-Morse, parent of a Pond Cove student. Without the proposed positions, she said, the school system can’t keep up.

“In first grade, my learner was struggling to read,” she said. “When we reached out to the school system … we were told there were no resources to help (my) learner, so we had to wait until second grade.

“It was heartbreaking to hear that one of the best school systems in the state could not provide support to someone, in a not very unusual circumstance.”

Former school board member John Voltz said it has taken a lot of work to maintain the school system’s reputation for excellence and it takes a lot of work to maintain it.


“But it’s actually quite easy to damage or wreck it if you neglect it and do things that are reckless and not tied to thoughtful, long-term analysis,” he said.

The approved budget includes a $530,000 investment in facilities, which includes fuel, electricity, repairs and general maintenance; a $250,000 increase in health insurance costs; a 3% increase in salaries and other benefits and new positions, including an ed tech at the middle school, which currently doesn’t have one.

The school budget goes to voters in the validation referendum June 13.

“I think the intent of that amendment last night was to reduce the impact on taxes,” Superintendent Chris Record told The Forecaster Tuesday. “I understand, but the actual impact would have decimated the school district.”

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