Letter to the editor: Facts support rejection of latest Scarborough school budget

The Scarborough Town Council removed the framework for positive school budget negotiations by allowing the town manager to submit a 2015-2016 budget that was 12-plus percent over last year’s.

The town charter required the school board budget to be the fallback if a budget wasn’t accepted by the voters by June 30, de-incentivizing the board to significantly reduce its budget. Results: A $43.8 million school budget, with an 8.1 percent spending increase, that was rejected by voters June 9.

Then the council learned that use of the 12-plus percent fallback budget was contrary to Maine law and communicated, without public discussions, that this year’s voter-rejected budget – as opposed to last year’s voter-approved budget – was to be used as the fallback budget.

Again, the incentive to negotiate was removed. The council requested reductions of $500,000 (a budget 6.8 percent above last year’s).

It failed at the polls July 7 because the school board, armed with a bigger fallback budget, embarked on the “Vote No, Too Low” campaign, instilling the idea that to vote otherwise would result in cuts in level services.

The council and school board couldn’t explain how a 6.8 percent spending increase over last year translated into a “cut” in “level” services. Why? The 6.8 percent was false. It was 3-plus percent, a fact the public was unaware of at the polls.

The council then added $250,000 back to the budget, resulting in a 5 percent increase in the latest budget.

The council’s executive-session decision not to address unethical tax assessment practices created the initial groundswell of discontent. Defending these practices, the council spent about $300,000, which could have gone toward our schools. Certainly more than the above $250,000 to try to make this embarrassment go away!

Please encourage positive change and responsible government. A 5 percent school budget increase is still too high. Vote “no” Aug. 4.

Don Petrin

Scarborough

Letter to Town Council

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Please read the following letter to the Town Council from Don Petrin.  Send an email to let the Town Council know how you feel about the budget vote by clicking on the link below:

scarboroughtowncouncil@googlegroups.com

Scarborough Town Council,

As disheartening as it was to witness the BOE’s complete disregard of the Council’s directive and wishes, their decision to embark on a counter-productive strategy, involving much mis-information, made it so much uglier.

Everyone saw firsthand, the information promulgated in the media, the deliberate strategy employed involving scare tactics and alarm related to bogus unnecessary reductions. Despite this inappropriate behavior, it  was dwarfed by the sight of children, some elementary kids, recruited to hold up signs at the polling place!!!! That, coupled with many news articles, and one in particular, depicted that the children will  “suffer” if a 6.8% increase is approved, was not only an insult to one’s intelligence, but it was repulsive. Council leadership can go a long ways to stymied this type of behavior going forward, otherwise, make no mistake, it will continue.

Please view this as an opportunity to stand up and express your discontent with the BOE’s approach. Let Scarborough know that this type of behavior is not acceptable, that this Council will not reward such behavior. Take steps to  discourage it. Send a clear message to the BOE both in WORDS and DOLLARS that buck stops with the Council, not the BOE. Thank you.

Don

Recap of July 7 Budget Vote

Dear Active Friends,

As you have probably heard, the proposed school budget was overwhelmingly rejected yesterday as expected (Yes: 496, No: 3,584).  The all-important advisory question results were:

Budget too high…1,838

Budget acceptable…177

Budget too low…2,047

The purpose of the advisory question was to help the Town Council decide where to set the next budget to be voted on in Referendum #3.  So what do those numbers show?  Pretty much a dead heat, especially if you combine the too highs and the acceptables (2,005).  In any event, there are enough folks on both sides of the current budget proposal to suggest that it’s in the ballpark, and any fiddling with it should be fairly minimal.

We faced some heavy odds in yesterday’s vote:

*  a well-funded opposition that wasn’t afraid to spend significant amounts,

*  a school administration/School Board that blatantly used private student/parent information for their own purposes, and

* some of the most cynical scare tactics we have seen in a long time.

Despite those challenges, we fought them to nearly a dead heat.  Thanks to everyone who pitched in!

Rather than be gracious winners, however, the blank-check-for-the-schools crowd has already launched an email campaign to the Town Council pleading to restore school funding due to a supposedly clear mandate from yesterday’s vote.  Huh? The only mandate from the vote was that we’re currently in the right ballpark with the budget.  The blank-checkers seem to have adopted an aggressive, all-or-nothing strategy… they seem unwilling to concede that all taxpayers need to get some consideration when the school budget gets set.  And that the school budget needs to be affordable for all Scarborough residents.

It’s been a long few weeks, so I hesitate to ask yet another favor… but I will.  Please take 4-5 minutes and send off an email now to the Town Council members reminding them that the closeness of the vote indicates that the proposed budget was pretty darned close to being where it should be.  Please urge them not to make substantial changes to the $500,000 reduction that was included in yesterday’s school budget.  That email address to get to all Council members is: scarboroughtowncouncil@googlegroups.com.

Thanks again for supporting reasonable taxes for all Scarborough residents, as well as a strong (cynicism-free) school system!  We remain hopeful that Referendum #3 will be accompanied by some real changes in the way we create and approve the school budget in the future.

Onward!

Steve

Read the latest blog from Look Out Scarborough!

smartaxes-logoIs it possible to make sense of the School Budget?  Click the link below to find out:

http://lookoutscarborough.com/

Look Out Scarborough says “VOTE NO – TOO HIGH!

smartaxes-logoClick the link below to read why you should VOTE NO – TOO HIGH on July 7:

http://lookoutscarborough.com/

Vote No / Too High

Bob Rovner Appeals to Voters

Hello To All My Fellow Scarborough Citizens…

First of all I would like say “thank you” to all my fellow citizens who remain interested in the financial affairs of Scarborough by following SMARTaxes, www.LookOutScarborough.com and Concerned Taxpayers of Scarborough (on Facebook)…. We all very much appreciate your input, interest and support throughout the year.

This next school referendum vote that is coming up on July 7th is critical for all of us. We, the citizens of Scarborough are still faced with a 6.8% increase in the school budget which when coupled with the municipal side once again brings our annual overall budget increase to just under 5% … This is on top of, since 2011, year after year, through 2015, the already accumulated 28.8% tax increase.

When is this going to stop?

We, the citizens of Scarborough, together, are the only ones who can bring sanity to the financial structure of our community…. We seem to be the only ones who have the best interest of all Scarborough residents at heart and it is up to us to let The Council and Town Manager know that we are unhappy with the way they have been handling their fiduciary responsibilities… At this time, the only way we can get this point across, and have our tax increase brought down below 4% (or lower) is to ……

VOTE NO / TOO HIGH   

Please keep in mind that is very important to mark your ballot TOO HIGH in the comments portion of your ballot….. This is the criteria The Council will be looking at when they to define the public’s vote.

Thanks again for doing your part to help keep Scarborough taxes down as low as possible,

Bob Rovner
Scarborough

PS: here are a couple things the town and the boe does not want to talk about…
**within the near future, the boe will bring forward a plan to renovate the
primary schools, as well as the middle school, to the tune of costing the
taxpayers of Scarborough $15-20 million
**within the near future, the town will bring forward a construction plan for a
new public safety building… this will cost Scarborough taxpayers about $10-15- million.
**the Town of Scarborough currently has $100-million in debt.

School Board Chair Statements Challenged

The discussion around the school budget continues to refer to cuts. THE SCHOOL BUDGET IS NOT BEING CUT! The request for a school budget increase has been reduced from 8.1% to 6.8%, still an unsustainable increase which should be rejected as too high. Taxpayers should be reminded that $1.1 million in lost state revenues was already made up by Scarborough taxpayers with the infusion of $675,000 from reserves, $225,000 of which was from Town reserves. For Mrs. Beeley to continue to talk about this “loss” to the schools in the way she does is not only disingenuous, it is not accurate.

Ms. Beeley states in her release that, “The school funding formula is not based on personal income. It is based largely on property valuation and school enrollment trends, which for Scarborough is a slight shift downward.”  Again not accurate. While property values rise and school enrollment declines, as it has in Scarborough, the amount of State aid is adversely impacted. The school budget grows while the number of students declined.

Why are only services that impact students been targeted for reduction? Don’t let the scare tactics used by the School Board fool you.  Remember there is another “off budget” item in the purchase of the laptops that will add another $300,000 to the Town’s debt for next year.  Over the next 3-4 years the laptop initiative will be close to $2M dollars for taxpayer’s money. It is all about priorities.  The school board does not have its priorities straight.

Annalee Rosenblatt

SMARTaxes

883-9025