2016-06-17 / Front Page

Budgets pass: What it means for taxes

By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

In school budget validation voting Tuesday, spending plans for the coming fiscal year won the approval of taxpayers by wide margins in both South Portland and Cape Elizabeth.

In South Portland, about 7 percent of registered voters weighed in, giving the nod to a $47.7 million budget for the 2016-2017 school year, 861-446, for an approval rate of 66 percent.

School spending in South Portland will increase 3.4 percent. Assuming the city council adopts the municipal spending plan as currently envisioned, the total $82.7 million package – which includes taxes paid to Cumberland County – will climb 3.5 percent to $82.7 million. Of that, $61 million will come from local property taxes, a $1 million (1.7 percent) increase from the current budget. That would add 39 cents to the current mil rate of $15.49 per $1,000 of assessed property value. In other words, the annual tax bill on the median singlefamily home, assessed at $200,000, would increase $78 to $3,176.

In Cape Elizabeth, the proposed $24.3 million school budget passed by a similar margin, with 64 percent in favor. The final tally was 778 for, and 430 against.

Cape Elizabeth Town Clark Debra Lane pegged voter turnout at 13 percent. The higher turnout when compared to South Portland was probably due to an additional referendum vote on a $1.4 million bond to upgrade the recycling center. That measure passed with 56 percent approval, 685-530.

The adopted school budget will add 46 cents to property tax bills in Cape Elizabeth next year, an increase of 3.8 percent.

When combined with the municipal budget, spending on public operations for the coming year in Cape Elizabeth will top $37.8 million. That will increase tax bills 3.9 percent, to a new mil rate of $17.54 per $1,000 of assessed property value. That means the median singlefamily home in Cape Elizabeth, assessed at $300,000, can expect a tax increase of $198 to $5,262.

Despite adopting school budgets by large majorities, as they historically have, voters in Cape Elizabeth and South Portland agreed they want to continue holding public votes on the topic, rather than return to the old system of letting school boards and municipal councils have the final say.

In Cape, the question of continuing the validation process for another three years passed 971-218 (82 percent in favor), while in South Portland the vote was 862-433 (67 percent in favor).

In both Cape and South Portland, there were two competitive primary races. In the campaign to secure the Republican Party nod to face off against U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree come November, Ande Smith of North Yarmouth beat Mark Holbrook of Brunswick in both municipalities. Smith carried Cape 295-116 and South Portland 230- 149. As of Wednesday morning, Smith appeared to be the nominee, winning 51 percent of the vote across the first congressional district (10,140 to 9,931) with 96 percent of precincts reporting. The only other competitive race was for the Democratic Party nomination to be Cumberland County Register of Probate. In that race, Nadeen Daniels of Portland, a special projects coordinator for Cumberland County, beat out probate court legal secretary Jessica Joseph of Falmouth by a vote of 244-136 in Cape Elizabeth and 405-180 in South Portland, on the way to winning the nomination. The current register of probate, Democrat John O’Brien – who is retiring at age 86 after eight years on the job – had endorsed Joseph. Instead, it will be Daniels who will face off against Republican James Hughes come November.

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