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School Board takes first look at $24.7 million budget proposed for 2017-18

The School Department is planning to use $800,000 from its fund balance to cover an anticipated reduction in state subsidy of the same amount for fiscal 2017-18.

The School Board got its first look at the 2017-18 budget proposal from Interim Superintendent Howard Colter at a workshop Feb. 28, 2017.

Colter is proposing a budget of $24.7 million, up $395,400 over this year's school budget of $24.3 million, an increase of 1.6 percent.

Tax rate for school services would increase to $12.85 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, up 3.6 percent from this year's rate of $12.40. The school tax bill for a home valued at $314,000 would rise $141.30.

Without the proposed $800,000 from year-end balance to offset lost subsidy, what is now a 3.6-percent tax increase would be in the 7-percent range, Colter said.

Officials learned of the subsidy decrease in mid-February, after budget estimates had been prepared. With administrators on school vacation, Colter said, he and Catherine Messmer, school business manager and municipal comptroller, made quick decisions to reduce the increase.

Messmer said she believed that the $1.4 million fund balance at the end of fiscal 2016 was healthy enough to support a $800,000 carryover. "For years and years and years our fund balance was between $200,000 and $400,000," Messmer said. "That's why I suggested to Howard (Colter) we use $800,000 to offset taxes because our fund balance is so high," she told members of the board. She said not everyone agrees with the concept, and both she and Colter cautioned that it would be a one-time move.

Colter called this year's budget development "sobering," especially for school administrators. "I think it's been disheartening because they felt they were challenged by you all with 'let's write the story, let's be positive, creative - let's not be crazy but let's just really think about what are the needs for the schools, the children in Cape Elizabeth," Colter said. "There's very little of that even standing today."

A summary of initial proposals not included in the budget, new proposals, fund-balance history and other supporting documents available are on the School Department's budget website.

The School Board will begin an in-depth review of the budget proposal with a half-day workshop, from 5-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 7. All workshops will be videotaped and available online.

School Budget Workshop Schedule: (subject to change)

Tuesday, March 7
5-8:30 p.m.
High School Library [directions]

  • Half Day Budget Detail Workshop


Tuesday, March 21
6:30-8:30 p.m.
High School Library [directions]

  • Budget update and Q&A


Tuesday, March 28
6:30-8:30 p.m.
High School Library [directions]

  • Answers to any outstanding questions and straw poll for
    preliminary budget adoption
  • Discussion on K-12 math curriculum


Tuesday, April 11
7 p.m.
Town Hall Chamber [directions]
School Board Business Meeting

  • Budget adoption scheduled


Tuesday, April 25
7 p.m.
Town Hall Chamber [directions]

  • School Board budget presentation to Town Council Finance Committee


Monday, May 8
7 p.m.
Town Hall Chamber [directions]

  • Town Council Municipal Budget Hearing


Monday, May 15
7 p.m.
Town Hall Chamber [directions]
Town Council Special Meeting

  • Municipal Budget Adoption


Tuesday, June 13
7 a.m.-8 p.m.
Cape Elizabeth High School [directions]

  • School Budget Validation

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