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05/08/2018

Decision on 2019 town, school budgets tabled to May 14

The Town Council on May 7, 2018 tabled consideration of a $39.7 million combined municipal budget for fiscal 2019 to May 14, following 90 minutes of testimony from residents overwhelmingly supporting the school budget. [jump to budget summary][download budget summary]

Thirty-five speakers addressed the council, most encouraging them to send the $25.4 million school spending plan to voter referendum June 12. "I think you should vote to approve it and let the voters decide," said Cranbrook Drive resident David Hillman.

Tabling until May 14 will give councilors time to consider public comment, and will put the vote within the 30-day window required between budget adoption and the school-budget validation vote.

Spending for town, school and county services is proposed to rise 1.9 percent next year, raising taxes 7.4 percent to $19.33 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The increase would add $400 to the tax bill for a home valued at $300,000.

The school budget - the concern of most speakers at the hearing - is slated for a 3.1-percent increase, but a 46-percent decrease in revenue, fueled by an $890,000 drop in state funding, is resulting in a proposed 10-percent tax increase for school services.

Speakers at the hearing represented a cross-section of townspeople - parents, non-parents, senior citizens, students, longtime residents and newcomers. Many faulted the state for the proposed tax increase, and called for community action to equalize funding or to find other ways to fund Cape Elizabeth schools.

Others said they considered taxes an investment in not only the town's youth, but in the value of their own properties. "My kids have aged out, so right now, any taxes I pay go to somebody else's kids," said Manor Way resident Chuck Carpenter. "And you know something, I'm not doing that out of altruism, I'm doing it so my property values will go up." Spoondrift Road resident Lynne Beasley recounted her experience living another community that also has high school taxes. "You're thinking now you're going to pay ... $1,000 more than you did, but when you sell your house in 10 years you're going to get back $50,000," she said. "That was a hell of an investment, and I think you need to think about that," Beasley said.

Less supportive of the school budget proposal was Bill Gross, a Sea View Avenue resident who volunteers regularly in High School physics classes. He said $2.5 million could be saved if the ratio of students to professional staff was 12:1 as it was when his children were in school, rather than 9.5:1 now. "In my narrow area, physics, in my opinion the students are getting a wonderful education in 9th grade honors physics, but it's not any better than my kids got ... in 1999-2000," he said. "So that $2.5 million isn't getting us anything." Reducing professional staff by one employee per year over the next 15 years will result in a budget $1 million less than it is now, Gross said.

Beacon Lane resident Ken Lane called the proposed tax increase a "body blow" and called for pressure on state lawmakers to equalize state funding. He also recommended deferring a budgeted $250,000 engineering and architectural study for future school renovations, and using all of the $449,000 school unassigned fund balance for tax relief. "I intend to vote for the budget, but let's not kid ourselves, this is a body blow to our citizenry," Lane said.

Barbara Powers, a former School Board member and past superintendent in Falmouth, said the good news is that Cape Elizabeth has reached the bottom rung of the state funding ladder. "We are not going to get body-blown again," she said, echoing Lane's remark. "I am completely in favor as a senior citizen of taking a hit this year knowing that that's putting us in a place that feels stable," she said. "I think that knowing we can plan our budgets now based on where we are as a minimum (state-funding) receiver, makes a great deal of difference to our seniors."

The $12.3 million proposed town budget includes funding for a pilot tax-relief program for senior citizens.

One speaker, Stone Bridge Road resident Sherm Altenburg, said he came to the hearing to support the town's contribution toward the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust's purchase of the 52-acre Robinson Woods III conservation parcel. The town's land acquisition fund has budgeted approximately $168,000, which is less than the $233,000 requested by the land trust. "Over time I know our grandchildren will appreciate your support of this purchase and I hope their grandchildren will too," said Altenburg, who also contributes to the land trust monetarily and as a volunteer.

The vote on the general fund was tabled, but councilors did approve special-fund budgets for Cape Elizabeth Rescue, Sewer Fund, Spurwink Church, Riverside Cemetery, Fort Williams Park, Portland Head Light, Thomas Jordan Trust, Infrastructure Improvement and Land Acquisition.

Budget Summary        
Fiscal Year  2019        
  FY 2018 FY 2019 $ Change % Change
  BUDGET BUDGET FY 18  to FY 19 FY 18  to FY 19
EXPENDITURES        
TOTAL MUNICIPAL
$      12,137,599
$        12,368,374
$              230,775
1.9%
COUNTY ASSESSMENT
$        1,331,050
$          1,392,240
$                61,190
4.6%
Local Homestead Exemption
$           375,630
$             300,000
$              (75,630)
-20.1%
SCHOOL  DEPARTMENT
$      24,879,013
$        25,641,276
$              762,263
3.1%
 
$      38,723,292
$        39,701,890
$              978,598
2.5%
 
REVENUE
TOTAL MUNICIPAL
$        4,938,670
$          5,032,007
$                93,337
1.9%
SCHOOL  DEPARTMENT
$        3,332,211
$          1,768,977
$         (1,563,234)
-46.9%
TOTAL
$        8,270,881
$          6,800,984
$         (1,469,897)
-17.8%
 
NET TO TAXES
TOWN  SERVICES
$        7,198,929
$          7,336,367
$              137,438
1.9%
Local Homestead Exemption
$           375,630
$             300,000
$              (75,630)
-20.1%
COUNTY ASSESSMENT
$        1,331,050
$          1,392,240
$                61,190
4.6%
SCHOOL  DEPARTMENT
$      21,546,802
$        23,872,299
$          2,325,497
10.8%
TOTAL
$      30,452,411
$        32,900,906
$          2,448,495
8.0%
 
TAX RATES (Rounded to nearest ¢)
Local Homestead Exemption
$                  0.22
$                    0.18
$                   (0.05)
-20.6%
TOTAL MUNICIPAL
$                  4.25
$                    4.31
$                    0.06
1.4%
COUNTY ASSESSMENT
$                  0.79
$                    0.82
$                    0.03
4.0%
SCHOOL  DEPARTMENT
$                12.74
$                  14.03
$                    1.29
10.1%
TOTAL
$                18.00
$                  19.33
$                    1.33
7.4%
 
TAX RATE VALUATION BASIS
1,692,995,900
$  1,702,025,100
$     9,029,200.00
0.5%

Special Fund Budgets 2019

  Budget Estimated  Budget Estimated Budget $ Change % Change
Expenditures FY 2017 FY 2017 FY 2018 FY 2018 FY 2019 2018 to 2019 2018 to 2019
Cape Elizabeth Rescue Fund   $   440,936  $   440,936  $   447,336  $   429,161  $   539,200  $      91,864 20.5%
Cape Elizabeth Sewer Fund  $2,271,587  $2,151,587  $2,099,300  $2,178,559  $2,046,201  $    (53,099) -2.5%
Spurwink Church Fund  $       9,209  $       9,209  $       9,209  $       7,990  $     10,491  $        1,282 13.9%
Riverside Cemetery Fund  $     55,784  $     55,784  $     57,328  $     54,235  $     66,589  $        9,261 16.2%
Fort Williams Park Capital Fund  $   485,600  $     44,180  $   264,135  $   258,885  $   173,246  $    (90,889) -34.4%
Portland Head Light Fund  $   543,230  $   543,230  $   560,643  $   615,663  $   628,035  $      67,392 12.0%
Thomas Jordan Fund  $     52,035  $     52,035  $     52,035  $     12,035  $     37,035  $    (15,000) -28.8%
Infrastructure Improvement Fund   $            -    $            -    $            -    $            -    $            -    $             -   0.0%
Land Acquisition Fund   $            -    $            -    $            -    $            -    $   167,714  $    167,714 100.0%
Use of General Fund carry Forward  $   107,000  $   107,000  $   317,400  $   317,400  $     77,000  $   (240,400) -75.7%
Total Budget  $3,858,381  $3,403,961  $3,807,386  $3,873,928  $3,729,908  $    (77,478) -2.0%
               
  Budget Estimated  Budget Estimated Budget $ Change % Change
Revenues  FY 2017 FY 2017 FY 2018 FY 2018 FY 2019 2018 to 2019 2018 to 2019
Cape Elizabeth Rescue Fund   $   390,000  $   390,000  $   390,000  $   280,000  $   300,000  $    (90,000) -23.1%
Cape Elizabeth Sewer Fund  $2,000,300  $2,000,300  $2,028,300  $2,040,270  $2,032,300  $        4,000 0.2%
Spurwink Church Fund  $       4,700  $       4,700  $       4,700  $         900  $       1,200  $      (3,500) -74.5%
Riverside Cemetery Fund  $     44,500  $     44,500  $     44,300  $     69,000  $     67,000  $      22,700 51.2%
Fort Williams Park Capital Fund  $   195,650  $   195,650  $   201,355  $   204,225  $   199,800  $      (1,555) -0.8%
Portland Head Light Fund  $   555,800  $   555,800  $   576,000  $   676,000  $   636,000  $      60,000 10.4%
Thomas Jordan Fund  $     40,000  $     40,000  $     40,000  $     40,000  $     40,000  $             -   0.0%
Infrastructure Improvement Fund   $     30,000  $            -    $            -    $            -    $            -    $             -   0.0%
Land Acquisition Fund   $     32,914  $     32,914  $     32,914  $     32,914  $   112,914  $      80,000 243.1%
Total Revenues  $3,293,864  $3,263,864  $3,317,569  $3,343,309  $3,389,214  $      71,645 2.2%