2015-03-20 / Front Page

Budgets boom in Cape

By Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH — Spending plans for 2016 recently unveiled in Cape Elizabeth could boost the local mil rate by 40 cents, or 2.38 percent, to $17.20 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The change does not include a probable increase on Cape’s bill for its share of Cumberland County government.

According to a March 1 budget message to town councilors from Town Manager Michael McGovern, half of the 7.8 increase on the municipal side of the ledger can be tied to debt service on a $4 million bond to rebuild Thomas Memorial Library.

The first $290,000 payment on that bond, approved by voters in November, accounts for roughly half of McGovern’s $591,000 budget increase.

Other spending hikes include a 2.5 percent pay raise for most town employees, amounting to $82,000; a $30,000 spike in worker’s compensation costs, $40,000 for health insurance, and $15,000 in retirement plans; $25,000 to fund a new human resources assistant, to be shared with the school department; $12,000 for new mapping software for the code enforcement department; $60,000 for capital spending and building maintenance; and $15,000 for repairs to the Greenbelt Trail.

The new $9.8 million municipal operating budget would add 28 cents to the mil rate, McGovern said.

Meanwhile, the school budget presented by Superintendent Meredith Nadeau is up $600,000, or 2.6 percent, to $23.8 million. It would add 12 cents to the mil rate.

The school budget calls on cutting 3.5 staffers, saving $151,470. Those cuts are based on an expected loss of 46 students next year, lowering total enrollment to 1,601.

Nadeau’s budget proposal calls on not replacing two teachers due to retire at the end of the current school year — one at Pond Cove Elementary School and one at the middle school — while reducing the special education director job to half-time. Also up for elimination are one teacher and one educational technician from the special education staff.

The biggest piece of the school budget pie, at 80 percent of all costs, is tied up in salaries and benefits. Staffers are due to get a 3.9 percent pay raise, boosting the salary line to $19 million. Meanwhile, health insurance costs are projected to go up 8 percent.

Proposed new spending includes $20,000 to overhaul the school department’s website; $50,000 for added preschool programming; and $12,000 to renew the high school’s accreditation with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Other new costs include extending the department’s lease on iPads for the high school and expanding this year’s pilot summer school program.

“We believe this budget supports our strategic plan goals and our commitment to providing students with access to quality programs, maintaining a high-caliber staff and preserving the district’s reputation for excellence,” Nadeau wrote in her budget message to the school board, which is due to finalize the plan at its March 24 meeting.

A public hearing on the full budget is scheduled for May 12.

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