Brief summaries of what happened at Town Council and School Board meetings…

 September 3, 2014 Town Council meeting:

Two items approved to go to referendum in November:

  • $585,000 for a new fire truck
  • $478,900 for a Town-wide revaluation (of real estate values for tax purposes


August 20, 2014 Town Council meeting:

Memorandum of Understanding for ice arena on Town property tabled The ice arena will be the subject of a Town Council workshop on Wednesday,October 1.

Affordable Housing Tax Increment Financing (“TIF”) agreement approved.  This diverts future real estate tax revenues on the project to (1) the developer and (2) the Town for future affordable housing support.


August 14, 2014, 7pm — Board of Education Meeting 

Updates from Superintendent Entwistle:

• Marzano model (for teaching effectiveness and teacher evaluation) being proposed for entire district
• New Wentworth School on target to open when school commences
• Proficiency based diplomas – “we are well on our way to achieving this”

Informational presentation on proposal for a new indoor ice arena by the Friends of Scarborough Hockey (FoSH):

• 37,000 sq ft building; $5.5 million budget for construction and first year of operation
• Would be built on Town-owned land — current teachers’ parking lot behind Mobil Station
• Would require building of a new parking lot on site where water tower once stood
• Private fundraising; building would be owned by FoSH; Town would retain ownership of land
• South Portland and Cape Elizabeth interested in obtaining ice time
• $10k-$20k savings in bus expenses for hockey teams suggested
• Business plan has been completed but was not shared with the public at the meeting
• There was no discussion of any Town costs or the terms of any lease arrangements for the Town land
• Distributed memo states that FOSH will be meeting with Town Council On August 20 to “seek approval of a Memorandum of Understanding that outlines the use of town property adjacent to the high school for the purposes of the ice arena.”

Proposal to increase student activity fees (primarily athletic fees)

• Approved FY2015 School budget includes $157,500 to be received from student activity fees (an increase of $7,500 over the FY 2014 budget).
• But FY2014 actual student activity fees were only $138,095. So, with no changes in fees, one would expect that actual FY2015 fees will again be about $138,000.
• As a result, with no increase in fees, there will be a FY2015 budget shortfall of nearly $20,000 in revenue from student activity fees ($157,500 budget less $138,000 of expected fees = $19,500 budget shortfall).
By a 4 to 2 vote, the School Board voted NOT to raise student activity fees to achieve the amount of revenue in the approved School budget.
• [Editor’s note: This is a novel and unacceptable budget practice – enter a revenue amount in the budget and then do not take the necessary action to achieve the budgeted amount. This essentially renders the budgeting process meaningless.]

August 4, 2014 9am — Town Finance Committee Meeting 

Present: Councilors Holbrook (Chair), Blaise and Donovan
Staff: Town Manager Hall, Town Finance Director Porter
Members of the public: 8

Most of the meeting was devoted to a review of the first pass of the financial results for FY14.   There are accruals, interdepartmental transfers, audit adjustments and other arcane accounting maneuvers that must be performed before we’ll know how FY14 really ended up according to the annual audit report.  But the first pass shows “general fund”  results coming in at about $1.5 million less than budget.  (The “general fund” is where the accounting for the vast majority of Town and School operations occurs.)    We’ll have to wait to see what the final numbers are.

The Committee agreed to invite School Department representatives to their next meeting to get an overview of the School Department’s preliminary FY14 financial results.

The other main topic of discussion was a review of an in-progress “Town & School Shared Services” project.  The goal is to identify services provided by the Town to the School and vice -versa, and make certain that appropriate financial charges are being made for all services rendered.  (For example, if Town Public Works employees provide lawn maintenance and snow plowing to the schools, those services should be reflected as School expenses, not Town expenses.)  This “shared services” analysis is important; it will help ensure that both the Town and the School’s financial statements are as accurate as possible.

July 31, 2014 7pm — Board of Education Meeting 

The majority of the meeting was devoted to reviewing and approving about a dozen appointments of new teachers.  A Board member asked if there would be any savings associated with the new teachers coming in at lower pay levels than those leaving.  Excellent question!  But, alas, the answer was that there will probably be no material savings since many of the newly hired teachers will be for the most part be very experienced and, consequently, expensive.

A few items of interest:

  • Chairperson Massengill reported that the demolition of the old Wentworth School was complete.  (Although not reported at the meeting, it appears that the public grand opening of the New Wentworth School won’t be until sometime in October.  We’ll let you know when.)
  • Ms. Massengill also reported that the entrance artwork will be installed soon.  (Stay tuned!)
  • Ms. Perry reported that the new contracts with the bus drivers and the support staff unions are nearly finalized.  (We’ll provide details as soon as possible.)
  • Mr. Caiazzo noted that the preliminary FY14 financial results will be reviewed at the next Finance Committee meeting.


June 17, 2014 9am — Town Finance Committee Meeting 

Present: Councilors Holbrook (Chair), Blaise and Donovan
Staff: Town Manager Hall, Town Finance Director Porter
Members of the public: 2

1. Ms. Porter gave an overview of the Town revenues and expenditures for the 11 months of the Fiscal Year ending May 31, 2014. She reported no major variances on the revenues.

2. On the expenditures side, Ms. Porter was asked about the $3.6 million remaining available budget for the schools. Through 11 months, 90.9% of the school budget has been expended or encumbered. She was asked if she had an estimate of how the schools would end up the year on expenditures. She said she would inquire of the school financial staff.

3. It was noted that the new Wentworth School is now substantially complete and that demolition of the old school building will begin soon. There was a brief discussion indicating that the construction project may come in under budget. [We will follow up to determine how the project costs compare to the budget and how any amounts not expended will be handled. We will also request an analysis of the debt issued in connection with the new school and how that relates to the expended amounts.]

4. There was a discussion of “shared services,” i.e., services charged to the Town and then allocated to the schools. It was noted that the current Town method of allocating these costs is the subject of a narrative report prepared by Ms. Porter. It was further noted that the current allocation method does not charge the schools for the use of space in Town Hall. Nor are the schools charged for field maintenance expenses. Since the schools are not absorbing these costs, the per pupil costs currently reported are artificially lower than they should be. [We will request a copy of the report on shared services allocations.]

5. The Committee then reviewed and approved the allocation of $60,000 (included in the Town budget, apparently) to “outside agencies,” including Home Health Visiting Nurses of Southern Maine ($17k), Project G.R.A.C.E. ($11k) and VNA/Home Health & Hospice (9k).

6. After the formal adjournment of the meeting, Councilor Blaise asked how much involvement the Council could have in the school budget, mentioning the 6.7% increase in the school’s gross expenses for FY15. Manager Hall noted that the Charter gives the Council specific authority to approve the school’s bottom line. He indicated that he believed the schools currently operate in a cost-effective manner.

7. Councilor Holbrook kindly offered the members of the public (just me, at the time) an opportunity to speak, noting that “we are usually alone in this room” for Finance Committee meetings. I thanked her and assured her we would do our best to eliminate the lonely feeling going forward.

8. The July meeting date will be set soon. The first (unaudited) version of the financial results for FY14 will be presented at the July meeting.

sph 06-17-14

May 21, 2014 Town Council meeting:

The Council approved a “first reading” of a School gross expense budget of $43,836,000.  This reflected a  reduction of $138,000 from the amount voters rejected eight days ago.    (In the referendum, 59% of the voters said the submitted budget was too high.)  The $138,000 reduction in the amount of the budget request was proposed by the School Board’s Finance Committee.   It represents a reduction of .3% (i.e., less than one-third of one percent) from the budget level just rejected by voters.

Councilors Caterina, Donovan, Holbrook and St.Clair voted for the slightly reduced School budget.  Councilors Benedict and Blaise voted against it.  Councilor Sullivan was not present.

A “second reading” of the proposed School budget will occur on June 4, 2014.  At that time, the amount of the budget will probably again be adjusted by the Council.  Whatever amount the Council approves on June 4 will then go to the voters in another School budget validation referendum on June 10.




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