Be sure to vote on the 2nd School Budget Referendum July 7!

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School Superintendent pushes back on Town Council

6.8% increase not enough to operate without cutting programs claims Entwistle

This letter from School Superintendent George Entwistle was recently sent to Scarborough parents and staff

Budget Update from the Superintendent

June 22, 2015

Dear Scarborough Parents and Staff-
At the Town Council meeting last night (Wednesday, June 17, 2015), it was acknowledged that the School Board had produced a no-frills, level services, school budget for 2015-2016. Unfortunately, that budget was defeated in the June 9th referendum. The Town Council’s response to the vote was to reduce next year’s operating budget by an additional $500,000 (they had previously reduced the budget by $90,000).
The public heard from Council Members on the 17th that the School Board and School Department should be able to find efficiencies that will allow us to make this reduction of $500,000 without impacting existing services and programs for students. It is important for our staff and parents to know that this will not be the case.
In preparing data for the School Board to consider in advance of what was anticipated to be a less devastating reduction from the Town Council, school leaders were able to identify potential reductions amounting to approximately $250,000. Roughly $200,000 of these reductions, however, would depend upon a fundamental shift in established budgeting practice related to planning for a small amount of fund surplus to accrue during the budget year (to serve as a cushion for any unanticipated expense(s). This change in practice, of course, is not without risk and would create greater dependency on dipping into the Town’s undesignated surplus in the case of an emergency expense. Another $50,000 was identified as potential savings to be generated by a shared-services agreement with Cape Elizabeth for our new Director of School Nutrition.
The remaining $250,000 balance (of the total $500,000 reduction), quite frankly, cannot be accomplished without the loss of programs. While we will protect academic resources that are essential to our core mission of delivering quality K-12 teaching and learning for the children of our community, we will, at the same time, be forced to eliminate other valuable activities and services that are not part of that core. The School Board will work closely with School Leaders to accomplish these reductions in the most student-centered manner.
Despite the arrival of the last day of school for the 2014-2015 school year, I encourage you to stay tuned to these very important budget deliberations. Public meetings will be posted on the school’s webpage (www.scarboroughschools.org). The Town Council will finalize its reduction of the school budget at a public hearing on June 24th (7:00 PM) in Town Hall.
Best regards,
Dr. George Entwistle, Superintendent

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Letters to the Editor-VOTE NO ON THE SCHOOL BUDGET

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From the Letters to the Editor in the Scarborough Leader:

http://leader.mainelymediallc.com/news/2015-06-05/Letters/Last_chance_to_control_2016_tax_bill.html

Thumbs Down to BOE and Town Council by the Current

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From the Current’s editorial page…..What does the Scarborough Current think about the school budget proposed by the Board of Education and endorsed by the Town Council?  Read this excerpt from their editorial page to find out.

Thumbs DOWN to the Scarborough Town Council and School Board for foisting upon taxpayers a budget that increases total spending by about 6 percent. Here’s hoping all Scarborough homeowners also enjoy a 6 percent wage increase to help pay their tax bill. Either that or they should reject the proposal at the polls June 9 and force their leaders to come up with a proposal more in line with reality.

To read the full editorial of thumbs up and thumbs down in the latest edition of the Current, click the link below:

http://www.keepmecurrent.com/current/opinion/editorial-we-re-all-thumbs/article_b6b6528c-0478-11e5-8e4e-d7f4a7a5a719.html

Read the latest blog from “Look Out Scarborough!”

smartaxes-logoThe Town Council has approved a School Budget with an 8% increase!  Read the latest blog from “Look Out Scarborough!” by clicking on the link below:

http://scarboroughtaxes.us8.list-manage2.com/track/click?u=1b638be072e6babf712bcd338&id=7756dca227&e=9f42802e3a

Scarborough Schools per Pupil Cost Explained

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Please read Annalee Rosenblatt’s letter to the editor providing information on the often quoted “per pupil costs”.

The information provided by the School Board on per pupil costs continually makes Scarborough look under funded and may be somewhat deceptive. We do not claim it is inaccurate, but meant to deflect and confuse the taxpayers of Scarborough.  We decided to take a closer look at the per pupil cost statistic to find out what it really means.   We started by meeting with Sawin Millet, former Commissioner of Education, Executive Director of Maine School Management Association and former Commissioner of Finance for the State of Maine, a person recognized far and wide for his expertise, to help us better understand this concept. It is complex.  As a result of that meeting and a follow up question to Mr. Millett, we were referred to Susan Beaudoin, Director of School Finance and Operations for the Department of Education.  We ask the following questions.  When comparing per pupil expenditures among school districts can one assume the same costs are included in arriving at that figure?  Is there a common WEB site one can go to go get an apples to apples comparison? 

 The answer to those two questions were very straight forward, no double speak that you seem to get from the School Board.  The Resident Expenditures by Budget Categories is based on all general fund expenditure and revenues annually reported by each School Administrative Union to the State Department of Education separated into the statutorily required eleven budget categories…For the Per-Pupil Expenditure, the Resident Expenditures are divided by the Resident Pupil count…”

 Ms. Beaudoin went on to note, “For the best comparison, you should choose those units with similar number of students and operates schools with similar grade spans. For Scarborough, they have a little over 3100 students and operate schools for kindergarten through grade 12. Similar size school units would be Sanford, South Portland, RSU 57/SAD57 (Massabesic). RSU 60/SAD 60 (Noble), RSU 10 (Mountain Valley), RSU 14 (Windham), and RSU 18. (Messalonskee)” Presumably, this is the cohort the Director of Finance for the Department of Education would use when making per pupil expenditure comparison.

The School Board has selected as the cohort they use to report per pupil expenditures as Cape Elizabeth, RSU 5 (Freeport), Yarmouth, Falmouth, Kennebunk, Gorham, South Portland, Westbrook, RSU 14 (Windham), Cumberland, and perhaps a few others we missed when listed at the public forum.

First of all we found that many people did not know what cohort meant. What is a cohort?  A cohort is a like group used for medical studies such as people in their 50’s or an educational study such as all 2nd grade math students. It can be a group of people used in a study who have the same social class in common.

The cohort suggested by the Department of Education takes into account two important factors in the per pupil calculation, number of students and type of school organization, (district who have kindergarten to 12 educational offerings). One of several factors in the declining state aid to Scarborough is the fact the student population is declining therefore, it seems to SMARTaxes this is an important part of any cohort selected. What is the criteria for the School Board’s cohort?

If you are influenced by the data offered by the School Board in terms of per pupil expenditure, we are urging citizens to take time to get the facts and decide for themselves what the appropriate cohort for comparison purposes is. We are not suggesting you agree with us, only that you get your own facts, do your own research and decide for yourself. You can check for yourself for per-pupil expenditures by the required eleven budget categories at http://www.maine.gov/education/data/indicators/indicators.html  and the directory of school units at http://www.maine.gov/doe/schools/directories.html

We are being asked to make a bigger and bigger “investment” in our schools every year. Take the care to research the value of this investment as you would any other investment you make. The debt service for the Wentworth School, the cost of ground and field maintenance, or the cost of the DARE program is not in the Scarborough Schools per pupil cost figures. What will they be if and when these are added? What else is not reflected in the school budget that influences per pupil costs in other districts? Are these costs in the school district budgets of the cohort schools, whichever cohort you believe is correct?

As the Superintendent said at the public forum, the only person who understands the education funding formula is the person who wrote it. The School Board advocates for education, not residents, not taxpayers, not senior citizens, not the unemployed or underemployed, not for struggling young families. Be an informed voter. Be you own advocate. Go to scarboroughtaxes.com to see some additional comparisons.

Annalee Rosenblatt, SMARTaxes

2013/2014 Per Pupil Costs Scarborough vs. Suggested State Department of Education Cohorts and Others
SAU ID School SAU Name Regular Instruction Special Education Instruction Career and Technical Instruction Other Instruction Student and Staff Support System Administration School Administration Transportation (to include buses) Operations and Maintenance Debt Service All Other Total Resident Pupil Count
3164 Messalonskee RSU 18 $4,781.31 $1,146.28 $154.61 $205.13 $1,072.25 $236.23 $578.48 $682.07 $1,003.28 $378.74 $8.14 $10,246.51 3,072
1148 Sanford Sanford $4,267.20 $2,060.37 $503.24 $254.00 $960.86 $237.89 $618.60 $541.21 $1,303.70 $0.00 $2.37 $10,749.48 3,016
1251 Massabesic RSU 57/MSAD 57 $4,262.58 $1,747.67 $13.87 $207.64 $921.66 $227.66 $581.85 $917.26 $1,185.67 $678.95 $32.98 $10,777.78 3,183
3162 Windham RSU 14 $4,476.85 $1,922.53 $107.30 $250.36 $1,032.59 $281.43 $635.90 $628.50 $1,352.09 $971.97 $0.00 $11,659.52 3,269
1254 Noble RSU 60/MSAD 60 $4,824.98 $1,865.65 $71.16 $229.27 $1,003.28 $303.34 $534.00 $777.41 $1,373.52 $727.84 $34.92 $11,745.38 3,007
STATE TOTAL $4,931.28 $1,860.10 $243.45 $262.45 $949.72 $355.35 $625.94 $625.94 $1,345.92 $776.66 $42.87 $12,056.40 181,503
1149 Scarborough Scarborough $5,284.87 $2,099.85 $95.90 $250.01 $979.41 $283.73 $489.40 $485.66 $1,010.98 $1,318.96 $13.36 $12,312.21 3,147
3159 Mountain Valley RSU 10 $4,909.22 $2,232.95 $683.88 $416.82 $1,092.13 $275.49 $650.40 $681.04 $1,616.99 $536.34 $32.55 $13,127.83 2,704
1029 Cape Elizabeth Cape Elizabeth $5,973.74 $1,836.16 $27.84 $400.66 $1,248.86 $427.89 $637.33 $404.89 $1,468.82 $769.77 $0.00 $13,195.95 1,674
1155 South Portland South Portland $5,370.39 $2,473.75 $82.90 $237.32 $1,090.34 $402.00 $696.04 $473.50 $1,349.85 $1,361.70 $124.70 $13,662.49 3,109
1190 Yarmouth Yarmouth $6,285.97 $1,974.17 $60.15 $585.17 $1,227.42 $410.90 $695.75 $502.76 $1,281.51 $958.12 $47.87 $14,029.80 1,459
1057 Falmouth Falmouth $6,276.29 $1,643.68 $37.42 $278.60 $1,217.73 $365.20 $543.42 $605.77 $1,141.89 $2,034.60 $0.00 $14,144.62 2,125
1245 Cumberland RSU 51/MSAD 51 $6,280.75 $2,489.91 $87.26 $313.99 $1,094.68 $400.11 $600.84 $703.81 $1,566.55 $1,466.18 $0.00 $15,004.06 2,042

Open Letter to Public Officials

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Please Read Bob Rovner’s letter to our Town Councilors and School Board Members

Please note my following concerns below…
Charter Commission:
I am respectively requesting that the Council pass a motion to re-establish the Charter Commission at this time. as of now this Commission is only required to meet once every 10 years, we have approximately 7 years to go until the next scheduled and required Commission.  In my opinion, this is way to long to
wait. If you choose to wait, most of you will be out of office by that time, thus resulting in minimizing the accomplishments i am sure you hope to bring to this town. I would think you would want your legacy to read in another way.
With the way that this town is growing, and the problems that it faces, the length of time between Commissions has become antiquated, and way out of date. There are just too many issues that need to be addressed at this time and items that need to be clarified. The town should not be waiting while the clock goes tick-tock.
Computers:
As you know from my statement the other night I do not believe that the computers that the BOE would like to obtain should be considered as a Capital Improvement. By doing so, in essence, the BOE will be getting an additional 1-million dollars without having any effect on their budget. And as we go forward, this burden (annual and otherwise) will continue to fall solely on the municipal side of the town budget, and not effect the BOE.
The purchase of the computers is not an after-thought. the BOE should have been preparing for this for sometime, and adjusting their budget requests accordingly. They have not done this, even though they have been researching this issue for 2-years. The BOE tells us all that this
situation is too complex for us mere mortals of the community to understand, but when they say that they are not only talking to us out here in the community, they are talking to you on
the Council as well… so much for mutual respect.
The fact that a parent can stand up before the Council and demonstrate the continued use of out-of-date text books, and blame the Council and the taxpayers for that matter, is ludicrous.  This responsibility lies solely on the shoulders of the BOE, as they are the one’s who control
how their money is spent, not the Council, and the public should constantly be made aware of this.
In my judgment, the cost of the computers lies solely with the BOE and for them to have presented this request to the Council as a Capital Improvement is surreptitious at best, as they have extracted the need from their educational requirements, thus thrusting this burden on the Council and in doing so, they have buried this request along with other items that are legitimate Capital Improvements.  Basically, they have hidden this from the public, while they gain a 1-million dollar exemption from their budget.
If you, the Council, do not choose to “kick” this expense back to the BOE, defining it as being their budget responsibility, then the very least i believe you should do is to present this item to the public as a stand alone referendum, and let the public make the decision as they become aware of what they are voting for and its ramifications…. after all it is their money; but to “hide’ it in the Capital Improvement
portion of the municipal budget is something that borders on being unethical, but certainly does not fall under the heading of sincerity and transparency. The taxpayers of this town deserve to know the truth and
what they are actually paying for… anything less is just unacceptable.
The taxpayers of this community are going to pay for this one way or the other, your goal is to make sure that the “hurt” placed on their shoulders is minimized as much as possible for now, and in the future.
Thank you for taking the time read this note.
Robert Rovner

Read Mike Turek’s Letter to the Editor

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“Live Within Your Means”

We didn’t have much when I was growing up. As a matter of fact, we had less than that. I learned a valuable lesson because we had so little.

I was constantly after my parents to buy things all our neighbors seemed to have and we did not. My Mother would respond that they are living to a level they can afford, and so are we. She was the first one who quoted Calvin Coolidge to me “There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no independence quite so important, as living within your means.” Now I find myself listening to the arguments for a continually rising school budget in Scarborough. All our neighbors, now called cohorts, have more than we do, therefore, we need to have more. The arguments sound a lot like the ones I presented to my parents. I say to all who will listen ‘Let them live at a level they can afford. Let us live at a level we can afford. We do not have the liquid assets the people on our cohorts list have: Falmouth, Yarmouth, Cape Elizabeth, etc.’ We cannot afford to continually raise the taxes here to try to keep up with the neighbors.

The school board’s insatiable appetite for money must be stopped before we force more of our citizens to sell their homes and move out of town. For sure, those coming into town will pay the taxes. Perhaps they will be able to afford them for a few years before the taxes catch up to their income; then they too will sell.  I urge the Town Council to reject the present school budget until it reaches a 2 or 3 percent increase. I urge every citizen who agrees with me to get in touch with the Town Council. I urge every citizen who agrees the school budget is too high to vote accordingly in June.

Michael B. Turek