In our last issue, due to a reporting error, we incorrectly stated that the taxpayer funding for the schools in the FY 2016 budget would increase by 12.2%. Based on more complete information now available, we know the correct increase is 13.3%. [Please pop your eyeballs back into their sockets now.] We apologize for the error, but not for alerting the public to the large magnitude of the increase.
Also, based on the April 1 release of the first version of the FY 2016 Municipal and School budgets, we note these highlights:
- Your overall tax bill will increase by 8.5% in 2016. (Inflation, as measured by the CPI-U, was zero for the twelve months ended February 28, 2015.)
- The owner of a $300,000 home will see his or her tax bill increase from about $4,530 to $4,914, or $384 (8.5%).
- Nearly all (96%) of the tax increase is attributable to the Schools.
- Capital spending will amount to about $ 5.0 million between the Town and Schools.
- About $4.5 million of additional debt will be issued to pay for much of the capital spending. (Outstanding debt as of 06/30/14 is $97.9 million.)
- Total payments on current debt of the Town and Schools will amount to about $10.0 million in FY 2016. This represents about 13% of total Town/School expenditures.
Speaking of the budget… As an added free bonus to our loyal readers, we are pleased to present an exclusive new resource to guide you through the Scarborough budget season. Please welcome…
The Informed Citizen’s Nifty Condensed Scarborough Budget for FY 2016
We here at Look Out Scarborough! really enjoy boiling things down… sap, facts, even budgets. So it seemed like a natural for us to take the 281-page Proposed Scarborough Budget for FY 2016 and boil it down to something a non-accountant could follow. So our financial staff has prepared a two-page version of the budget, complete with how it ties directly to your tax bill. Another exclusive service of Look Out Scarborough!
With this Nifty Budget you will be able to:
* Astonish family and friends with your knowledge of the budget.
* Confound your uninformed friends with solid facts instead of their vague notions that there has been relentless cutting of School budgets for many years now.
* Answer important questions like, “Of the 8.5% increase to my tax bill, how much of that is due to the reduction in State aid to education?” (Answer: If the State aid to education had remained at the FY 2015 level, your tax bill would “only” have increased by 6.6%.)
More Trash Talk
Very few details about the proposed new trash tax have been released. It is still not at all clear how much each of us will now have to pay for trash collection. We’ve heard $2 per bag, but don’t have a clue how much trash each bag holds. Even if the bags are quite large and you only need to use one a week, that’s an additional $104 you’ll be paying to the Town per year for service that is now included in your tax bill.
We have taken the liberty of including this additional trash fee (or, more accurately, trash tax) into the tax bill of that “average” $300,000 Scarborough home:
So instead of an 8.5% tax increase next year, you’re looking at an increase of more than 10%! Let’s stop the madness.
We’re hoping that the Town Council members have received enough outraged calls and emails objecting to this proposal to take it off the table. But just in case, please take two minutes right now to send them an email. It is, as they say, easy-peasy. One email address will send your email to all seven Council members: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The “Tell Us What You Really Think” Department
Those attending the April 1 Joint Town Council/School Board meeting experienced a real let-them-eat-cake moment. School Board member Jane Leng, speaking as a private citizen and not in her School Board capacity, made an impassioned plea in favor of the proposed School budget. In the course of her remarks, Ms. Leng suggested that those of us feeling the pinch of higher taxes might be better off moving somewhere else, allowing us to better live within our means. (Buxton is nice, we hear.)
Among her comments: “If you say you’re going to move because of the Schools or taxes, well, maybe you have the freedom. Maybe it’s good for somebody to move, because you know what, the market gets better when everybody does what’s best for them. And maybe it’s better for Scarborough if everybody does what’s better for them.”
Good grief. You folks who can’t afford year-after-year of outsized tax increases to support the Schools in the manner to which they have become accustomed should do the decent thing and move! It doesn’t matter that you’ve lived here for many years, or perhaps your entire life. Doesn’t matter that you’re living on a fixed income. Doesn’t matter that you have a couple of kids in the schools and are having a hard time making ends meet in a stagnant economy. Just move so your home can be available for someone who doesn’t mind a tax increase of 8.5%.
Ms. Leng’s comments may be seen at the Scarborough Community TV website: April 1 Town Council meeting. [Link here.] Her remarks begin at about 1:23:45 on the video. We urge you to spend five minutes watching how one School Board member sees her role and her responsibility to the taxpayers. (Hint: not much responsibility to the taxpayers.)
Please don’t misunderstand us. We applaud the sincerity and good intentions of Ms. Leng and all our School Board members in their advocacy for an excellent school system. And we are grateful for their service to the Town. But at some point their advocacy for the Schools must recognize and be brought into balance with the real-world financial constraints of the citizens of the Town. That balancing is currently not happening.
That’s it for now, friends. Stay tuned. If you want to see the School Board and School Leadership Council discussing the next moves on the School budget, please attend their workshop meeting from noon to 4:30pm this Thursday, April 9, in the Council Chambers at Town Hall. This meeting is open to the public.