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

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SMARTaxes Announces….

 SMARTaxes, the Scarborough taxpayer advocacy group, is pleased to announce their first anniversary meeting scheduled for 6 pm, May 4, 2015 at The Rock Church, 66 Gorham Road, Scarborough. The meeting is open to all. We will review the past year, address our concerns for the proposed municipal and school budgets, and listen to all who want to address the public group.

Mike Turek, one of the group’s co-founders, said “We want to re-affirm our commitment to our charter, hear public concerns, and listen to ideas for keeping Scarborough taxes from further dramatic escalation. Bring your concerns and ideas.”

About SMARTaxes:

 SMARTaxes was formed in March, 2014 by a group of Scarborough residents concerned with the escalating tax spend.  Our mission statement appears below:

To provide and widely share information and analyses of Town and School finances and to advocate for tax rates that support excellent public education, provide quality public services and are affordable for all Scarborough residents.

Contact Your Town Officials If You Feel Strongly About Reasonable Taxes

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BREAKING NEWS:  We are now on Facebook!  Be sure to follow SMARTaxes on Facebook to keep informed on issues impacting your taxes.  Search under SMARTaxes to follow.

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What is CPI and how could that positively impact my tax bill?  Read below and let us know by clicking on the comment button or emailing us at scarboroughtaxes@yahoo.com if you will contact town/school officials.

The CPI is the Key For Scarborough Taxes

An informed electorate can make a difference in Scarborough. Here is some information.

–The school budget went up 6.82% last year and 5% the previous year

–The taxes committed (billed) has increased 11.5% in the past three years.

–The town debt has gone up from $82,250,000 to $97,895,000 over the past three years, most of that due to school debt. That is an increase of 19.02%, and is now over $100,000,000.

–The Consumer Price Index (CPI) has gone up 1.9% for the past three years. That is the price you and I pay for goods and services. Last year’s average CPI for our area was 1.4%. Compare that to the town and school budgets! It’s a complicated Index that can be manipulated to take into account some things, but not others. Still the CPI is a good indicator of how much everything has gone up, except your income.

–Social Security raises have gone up between 1 and 2% for the past three years.

–Ms. Beeley, Ms. Perry and Mr. Caizzo have been on the school board for the past three years. All are up for reelection this November.

–Ms. Holbrook and Mr. Blaise have been on the town council for the past three years. Both are up for reelection this November.

–These people are the ones responsible for your steeply increased taxes over the past three years.

Now that you have this information, what can you do with it? Keep it simple. Do four things.

  1. Sit down today, right now, contact Ms. Beeley, Ms. Perry, Mr. Caizzo, Ms. Holbrook and Mr. Blaise. Copy all councilors and school board members. Ask them to keep any budget increases at the level of the CPI, or come very, very close. Tell them if they do not keep the upcoming budget at or very near the CPI average of 1.67%, someone else will be sitting in their chair after November elections. Please put a note on your calendar to look at the town budget and school budgets in June; then vote in June and November.
  2. Please cut out this article, keep it on your refrigerator as a reminder as the budget process evolves. Look at it often knowing these people are making decisions over which you have no control. They will present the budget in June.
  3. If the town and/or school board budget presented exceeds the CPI, or very, very close to it, please write another letter to them expressing your dissatisfaction.

4.If the town and/or school board budget presented exceeds the CPI, or very, very close to it, vote for anyone except these five people in November, even if you write in your own name.

1284 people voted for me as a school board write in candidate last November because I proposed we keep school budgets ‘reasonable’. I defined reasonable as near the CPI. I believe there are more of us that want the same thing. I am Michael B. Turek of Scarborough Maine Advocates for Reasonable Taxes (SMARTaxes). Please join me in keeping our property taxes as low as possible.

We need to hear from you. Many voices make for a strong voice.

Michael B. Turek

SMARTaxes

Name Position Phone Email
Jessica Holbrook Town Council 883-4138 jholbrook@ci.scarborough.me.us
Jean Marie Caterina Town Council 274-0805 jcaterina@ci.scarborough.me.us
Edward Blaise Town Council 885-5087 eblaise@ci.scarborough.me.us
William Donovan Town Council 883-9168 wdonovan@ci.scarborough.me.us
Shawn Babine Town Council 274-0805 sbabine@ci.scarborough.me.us
Peter Hayes Town Council 730-3948 phayes@ci.scarborough.me.us
Katherine St. Clair Town Council 885-5633 kstclair@ci.scarborough.me.us
Email all town councilors: scarboroughtowncouncil@googlegroups.com
Town mailing address: P.O. Box 360 Scarborough, ME 04070-0360
Christine Massengill School Board 885-1288 cmassengill@scarborough.k12.me.us
Kelly Murphy School Board 883-9610 kmurphy@scarborough.k12.me.us
Donna Beely School Board 883-3993 dbeeley@scarborough.k12.me.us
Christopher Caizzo School Board 885-6482 ccaiazzo@scarborough.k12.me.us
Jacquelyn Perry School Board 885-2451 jperry@scarborough.k12.me.us
Jane Leng School Board 510-1270 jleng@scarborough.k12.me.us
Jodi Shea School Board 883-1516 jshea@scarborough.k12.me.us
Email all school board: scarboroughboardofeducation@googlegroups.com
School mailing address P.O. Box 370 Scarborough, ME 04070-0370

“Call Me Irresponsible”???

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“Call me irresponsible, yes I’m unreliable
Throw in undependable too”…..

Or so says the Scarborough School Board in response to a letter to the editor in the Scarborough Leader suggesting taxpayer affordability should be a critical element to developing a budget.  Read the latest volley from the link below:

http://leader.mainelymediallc.com/news/2015-01-02/Letters/Dont_call_him_irresponsible.html

I wonder what the Chairman of the Board would have said to the School Board had they called him irresponsible?…

Frank Sinatra

SMARTaxes Endorsements — PLEASE VOTE on November 4!

Our endorsements…scartax-Voting-booth

For Town Council:

The SMARTaxes Steering Committee met with all seven candidates for Town Council and had good discussions with all seven.   Based on our understanding of each candidate’s position on the financial issues affecting Scarborough taxpayers, we are endorsing two candidates:

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We believe Peter and Liam share our concerns about the affordability of Scarborough’s tax rates, the current high level of the Town’s debt and a process that often seems to minimize citizen input.  Please consider voting for them. 

You may vote for up to three candidates for Town Council.  Although some of the other candidates appeared to be at least partially supportive of our goals, we were not able to identify a third candidate who we believed would work diligently to represent our views.  (Note that you may choose to vote for ONLY Peter and Liam.  For a succinct discussion of so-called bullet voting, click this link.)

For Board of Education:

SMARTaxes co-founder Michael B. Turek is a write-in candidate for the Board of Education!  Mike will bring a much-needed practical and fiscally conservative voice to the Board.

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Referendum Questions:st-ref 1

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Please note that this is just a summary of our endorsements.  For a much more comprehensive review of the candidates and issues, please refer to the current issue of The Observer, the SMARTaxes Newsletter (click here).

 

Skating on thin ice?

st-hockey-bkydAt 6pm on Wednesday, October 1, the Town Council will be holding a “workshop” to discuss the $5.5 million hockey arena being proposed by a private group known as the Friends of Scarborough Hockey, or FOSH.  The current plan is for the rink to be built on Town-owned property between the gas station and the High School. The workshop is open to the public (and may be televised on the local cable channel).  If the workshop follows the usual format, members of the public will not be allowed to interact with the Council members or FOSH presenters.   So the “public discussion” aspect of the workshop is limited by what the participants choose to discuss.

In our attempt to encourage real public discussion on the hockey arena, we submitted a list of questions we would like to have asked at the workshop.  That list follows.  In addition, we prepared a detailed position paper on the hockey arena that gets into the real nitty-gritty of the arena proposal.  Here’s a link to the position paper:  ST-Hockey Position Paper

Here’s the list of questions we submitted to the Town Council for the October 1 workshop:

Questions for the Town Council:

1. What amount does the Town propose as the “long term low cost” lease rate for the Town property on which the hockey arena would be built? How was that amount determined?

  • We believe an estimated market-rate lease rate for the property would be around $15,000 per year and do not understand the rationale for the Town accepting less. (We do not believe there are any circumstances under which the Town should sell the property to FOSH, even at a market price; the Town should always retain ownership of all property on the Town campus.)

2. The MOU envisions the Town waiving various approval and traffic impact fees. What is the total amount of fees that would be waived and what is the basis for waiving them?

  • Again, we do not understand the rationale for the Town waiving the fees.

3. What specific provisions will the Town include in the MOU and lease to ensure that the Town does not eventually become the rink’s owner and/or operator?

  • We do not believe the Town should be in the hockey rink business.

4. Will the Town require FOSH to raise the entire $5.5 million cost of constructing the rink before entering into a lease?

  • To minimize the risk of a partially completed project, we believe the Town should.

5. The Town’s school hockey teams will be the primary beneficiary of the proposed rink. Why hasn’t the Board of Education endorsed the project?

  • This is just puzzling.

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Questions for FOSH:

6. Does FOSH intend to apply for a real estate tax exemption for the proposed hockey rink?

  • The real estate taxes on a taxable property assessed at $5 million would be about $75,000.

7. Will FOSH enter into long-term ice time contracts (10 years or more) with the Cape Elizabeth and South Portland school systems for 30% or more of its budgeted annual revenue?

  • Long-term participation of Cape Elizabeth and South Portland school systems is crucial to the financial viability of the proposed hockey rink.

8. Can the proposed hockey arena be located elsewhere in Scarborough without significantly reducing its value to the various School teams?

  • Since the teams are now practicing and playing in various out-of-town ice facilities, it would appear that the availability of ice time at reasonable hours at any location in Scarborough would be a major improvement.

st-hockey-face offFrom the beginning, SMARTaxes has supported the concept of a privately-funded and operated ice arena in Scarborough.  Our concerns have been that any dealings between the Town and FOSH be conducted on an arm’s length basis and that all transactions reflect fair market value for the Town’s property.  We also would like assurance that the Town will not somehow become the owner and/or operator of the ice rink if FOSH’s plans do not fully succeed.

If you share these concerns, please contact Town Council members by phone or email.  Click here for contact info.

SMARTaxes Opposes Proposed Ice Arena Deal

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Late summer greetings to all! Time to enjoy the beach or a few days at the lake or a backyard barbecue. Time for those last lazy days of summer. Time for the back-to-school frenzy.

What an ideal time to slide a sweetheart deal through the Town Council! Yes, on Wednesday, August 20, the Town Council has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) from the Friends of Scarborough Hockey (FOSH) on the agenda.  FOSH proposes to build a new ice arena on Town land adjacent to the High School.  If approved, the FOSH-MOU would, among other things:

• Lease Town-owned land near the High School to FOSH as the site of the new ice arena at a bargain rate. Or, according to one news article, the Town would potentially give the land to FOSH.
• Require the Town to relocate the teacher/staff parking lot currently on the site leased (or given) to FOSH to an adjacent parcel which the Town doesn’t even own.
Waive various standard application and traffic impact study fees for FOSH.


Yes, they will point out the MOU is “non-binding.” True, but on the other hand, it is the starting point of a final agreement. And why start from a fundamentally flawed position? The Council should be clear that the MOU as drafted is not a reasonable starting point, and they should reject it.

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This is NOT an image of the proposed $5.5 million arena… but it will surely be grand.

The proposed ice arena – to be built with $5.5 million of private funds – is envisioned as serving the Cape Elizabeth and South Portland hockey teams as well as Scarborough’s. So any financial breaks that the Town gives to FOSH (bargain land lease rate, waived fees, etc.) will also benefit CE and SoPo. It’s great to be neighborly… but not with our tax dollars.


We at SMARTaxes strongly oppose the current FOSH-MOU. (Note that we do not oppose the concept of an ice arena; that sounds like a great idea.)  But not nearly enough is known about the details of the proposed deal and FOSH’s business plan for the arena. And what we do know is disconcerting… we do not understand the rationale for the Town subsidizing a private entity at taxpayers’ expense. Whenever the Town receives less than full market value for an asset (such as granting a bargain lease to FOSH), it needlessly reduces revenue. And when revenue is reduced, our taxes need to be raised.


We want to know more – lots more – about the proposed deal. We want the public to have time to understand and question the deal. We want the Town to follow sound fiscal principles in this (and all) deals.

With those concerns in mind, we sent the following email to members of the Town Council on August 18.  Please read our letter here…

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Please let the Town Council know your concerns. See the Be Heard! tab above for information about contacting Council members – it’s really easy.

Stay tuned for more details as they become available.

It’s Official! We’re now SMARTaxes!

Yes, after much deliberation, we have an official name — SMARTaxes.  Short for: Scarborough Maine Advocates for Reasonable Taxes.  And, conveniently, our name is also our mission.

We plan to dig into the details of the Town and School budgets, analyze what we find and present those findings to our members and the public at large.  In addition, we will monitor all Town and School public meetings that have financial implications and share concise and timely summaries of those meetings with the taxpaying public.  With these two strategies, we hope to help the voters to better understand Town and School finances and become part of the  decision-making process.

Steering Committee formed

For this group to make an impact, we needed to assemble a core group of individuals who could address policy issues, adopt guiding principles and oversee our activities.  We have assembled a group of seven Scarborough residents with diverse backgrounds but a common interest in assuring that our real estate taxes are arrived at in a well-understood, common-sense and reasonable manner.

The initial SMARTaxes Steering Committee members and their responsibilities are:

Bob Rovner, Co-Chair
Mike Turek, Co-Chair
Joanne Mahoney, Public Meetings Coordinator
Annalee Rosenblatt, School Budget Coordinator
Jonathan Tudor, Technical Coordinator

The Steering Committee’s first priority is to prepare a charter that will lay out the group’s mission, guiding principles and strategic direction.

working group formed

In addition to the Steering Committee, nearly 30 individuals have volunteered to join our “Working Group.”  The members of the Working Group will join specific Task Groups that will review and analyze budgets, attend Town and School public meetings, and otherwise help us achieve our mission.  We hope that several of the Task Groups will be up and running by the end of July.

It’s not too late to join the Working Group!  If you have an interest in rolling up your sleeves and getting involved, please contact us at ScarboroughTaxes@yahoo.com.  We have lots to do!


To receive email notifications when this webpage gets updated, just click the “FOLLOW” button at the right of this page.  Thank you!

FY15 School Budget Approved

The results of the Scarborough School Budget Validation Referendum held on Tuesday, June 10, 2014:


Yes: 1,598    (53.1%)

No: 1,413    (46.9%)

Too High: 1,446    (48.8%)
Acceptable: 565    (19.1%)   
Too Low: 953    (32.1%)

Although the budget was approved by the voters, the number of voters who said it was too high was 48.8%, indicating a very high degree of discomfort with the budget.  That level of voter discomfort may well grow next year after we have had an opportunity to educate the public about what is in the School budget.  For instance, we wonder how many of those voters who said the budget was either acceptable or too low realized that total School expenses in the now-approved budget are increasing 6.8% over last year’s budget level…
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We added lots of new members!

Twelve of us took turns staffing a table at the High School gym yesterday and had an opportunity to chat with voters after they voted.  Many folks saw the words “Sensible Taxes” on our sign and came over anxious to speak with us.  We heard many variations on several common themes — “we’ve lived here all our lives and the tax increases have been so high that we’re considering moving,”  “where are all these tax dollars going?” and “don’t Town leaders understand that taxes have to be affordable?”

More than 200 Scarborough voters joined our mailing list!  We welcome them to the growing number of taxpayers who want to understand just where their tax dollars are going.  And also want a say in where those dollars are going.  Now it’s our job to increase public understanding of the Town and School’s financial operations.  Thank you for joining us in that effort!

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COMING SOON…A new Name

We have been working on a new name for this group — one that will be instantly recognizable and will immediately convey our message.  Stay tuned!

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PLEASE VOTE — TUESDAY, JUNE 10