Voting against school budget

1062
Man writing on the paper in the office

Barbara Anderson died April 9, 2016. Many people in Maine do not know of her. The people in Massachusetts do. She was called the godmother of Massachusetts’ property tax limiting Proposition 2½. She founded a group of citizens who successfully pushed for a 2½ percent limit on annual property tax increases for the entire state of Massachusetts. If the entire state of Massachusetts can survive and prosper on 2½ percent property tax increases each year, why can Scarborough not?

Abraham Lincoln stood at Gettysburg 153 years ago and talked about “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” In my opinion, some members of the Town Council and the school board have forgotten that is what governing bodies should do: be for the people. The school board in particular appears to have forgotten there are over 16,000 citizens in Scarborough, and only 1,000 of those are in school. The board has no interest in the remaining 15,000, except the increasing money they provide each year. Board member Christine Massingil once told me the board is not a representative body like the council, but rather a governing body that only answers to the state education body. Such arrogance disappoints me and should each of the remaining 15,000 voters and taxpayers.

The council decided to drop the “Goldilocks question” from the upcoming school budget referendum. The reason given is that the question provided no clear information and sometimes added more confusion than clarity. That confusion last year was the doing of the school board. Last year the board finance committee, with the full board in attendance, wrestled with the question of where to cut programs to bring the budget down after it had been rejected. Board member Jackie Perry stood and vehemently declared the entire football program should be eliminated because it was the largest expense in the sports program and that would get everyone’s attention. The board decided to tell everyone to Vote No-Too Low on the referendum, knowing that they had a tremendous network to the parents, and that others in town who honestly believed the budget was too high would vote accordingly. The idea was to obfuscate the question, and possibly get the question eliminated from future referendums. It certainly worked.

Scarborough now has an opportunity that we haven’t had in several years. We have a new school superintendent who came to us from Massachusetts. She lived under the 2½ percent property tax increase. She must know if Massachusetts can thrive under such an annual property tax increase, Scarborough can, also.

We also have an opportunity on the referendum. The council set a goal of a 3 percent increase. They did not make it. Some will say, “It was just a goal.” I say, “No.” I have long advocated a 3 percent cap on the municipal and school budgets. That would translate to approximately the same in tax increases. Massachusetts demonstrated the idea works statewide. Let us prove it works in Scarborough. I will be voting no on the referendum because it did not make the stated goal of 3 percent. I urge all other voters to do the same.

Michael B. Turek

Scarborough

  • tt hannah

    Well stated, as always, Mike. The only thing I would add… If it weren’t for the one-time “Wentworth Windfall” (whereby $1.6 million fell into our laps for the FY 2017 budget), the real total tax rate increase would have been 6.0%, not 3.3%. It is very likely that next year’s increase will be out of sight. There’s a reason they mentioned the upcoming “fiscal cliff” a couple times at the Budget Forum. But, hey, why worry about the future?