On May 15, the Scarborough Town Council passed the municipal and school budget at a 4.21% increase, below their 5% goal. This equates to a 1.47% tax rate increase in a non-revaluation year, compared to 3.77% last year.

Gallagher

The budget was initially presented by the town manager in late March and has undergone extensive Finance Committee review. The proposed net budget starting point was 6.46% before any adjustments. Unlike previous years, which sought to advance community needs and council initiatives, this year’s proposed budget took into consideration the taxpayer impact on the upcoming revaluation and elimination of the state’s Senior Property Tax Stabilization program. It was described as a “level services budget,” intended to maintain our existing facilities, preserve municipal services and programs, and to retain our staff. It does not include any new positions, but accounts for the added costs to maintain the status quo. Staff retention is a major priority and budget driver. The budget includes four collective bargaining agreements, covering over half of our full-time staff, in order to remain competitive with our municipal neighbors.

The budget also includes a few projects that benefit the community: paving, sidewalk rehabilitation and accessibility improvements, a transportation design study for an upcoming road project, and Mussey Road intersection improvements. There will be two capital investments on the ballot this fall for voter approval. A 20-year-old fire engine is at the end of its safe operational use and will need to be replaced at a cost of $1 million. The police department is requesting $1 million for cruiser and body worn cameras. The cameras would bring the Scarborough Police department up to industry standards, as the department is one of only a few in Southern Maine that do not possess either camera system.

The Finance Committee met from April through early May to thoroughly review department budgets. Their stated goal was to make $3.3 million in budget adjustments between the town and the school budgets. Adjustments were made by revising insurance rate estimates, revenue projections, reducing operating expenses and deferring some plans and assessments. The town budget was reduced by $1.42 million, and the school portion of the budget was reduced by $1.385 million. The committee considered further school adjustments, and contemplated the use of fund balance in anticipation of how the revaluation would affect tax rates. Neither action ultimately moved forward and at the end of the process, the Town Council accepted the Finance Committee’s recommendation of a $2.8 million net budget reduction from the initially proposed budget.

The school portion of the FY25 municipal budget will be put before voters on Election Day, Tuesday, June 11. Tax bills will be finalized when the annual tax commitment is made in August. Early estimates from the revaluation suggest that the majority of residential property owners (excluding households that participated in the state’s Property Tax Stabilization Program last year) will, on average, experience a 7% increase in their tax bill amount from last year.

Voting for the School Budget Validation Referendum will be held at Scarborough High School, 11 Municipal Drive, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Early voting by absentee ballot is available at Town Hall during regular business hours, Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The last day to vote at Town Hall is Thursday, June 6.

Liam Gallagher is the assistant town manager of Scarborough.

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