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What is the "Charter of the Town of Scarborough"?

What is the "Charter of the Town of Scarborough"?

Council Corner: What is the "Charter of the Town of Scarborough"?

By Jean-Marie Caterina, Town Councilor

As a Town Councilor, I frequently hear the concern, Scarborough is a town, why are we allowing it to grow and change? Occasionally I am asked, Why do we have a Town Manager and not a mayor running the town? Or, Why are voters allowed to recall elected officials of the town? The answer to these and other questions can be found in the Town Charter, Chapter 201 of the Town Ordinances.

The Charter is essentially the “Constitution” of Scarborough. It defines our nature of governance and the establishment of the legislative bodies of the town – the Town Council and Board of Education. This document establishes that all town functions – except for the schools— will be administered by a manager who is appointed by and answerable to the Town Council.  The manager is the chief administrator of Scarborough.  The duties and responsibilities of the manager are many and are addressed by a full section of the Charter (Article Three). It determines that Scarborough will be known as a town, not a city, regardless of its size. It lays out a very involved and rigorous process for recall of elected officials.

Other matters covered by this very important document include Elections, Budgets, Tax Administration, and Municipal Development, among other topics.  The Planning Board, Board of Appeals, and Long Range Planning Committee are specifically established in the Charter as is the mandate to establish and maintain Ordinances.

A review of the Charter is required every ten years (Article X, Section 1008). In 2021, the Town Council established a committee to undertake this review process. The committee was comprised of nine citizen volunteers, two Councilors, one School Board member, the Town Manager, Assistant Town Manager, and Town Clerk. This committee met regularly in early 2021 and crafted a set of final recommendations for the Town Council.

The proposed amendments to the Charter range in significance and complexity. An example of a more complex change to the Charter includes the development and presentation to the Town Council of capital spending plans no less frequently than every three years. Another change is to move elections of the Town Council and School Board from November to the second Tuesday of June.  In all, there are 19 changes recommended. These recommendations will be reviewed this Spring and the Town Council will choose which recommended Charter changes will go to the voters for approval in November.

The Town Council is having the first workshop on these recommendations on Wednesday, March 9 and is available to view on the Scarborough website (find the link on the calendar listing or click the YouTube icon at the bottom of the homepage). The Council reviewed the changes in sequential order, identified which matters require more in-depth discussion and research, and set times and dates for further review and discussion. At all stages, the public will be asked to weigh in with thoughts and ideas. Once the proposed amendments have been thoroughly vetted by the Council, the Council will vote on which, if any, will go to the voters in the November elections. It is the Council’s duty to make that choice.

I suggest going to the Ordinance section of the website and look up Chapter 201-Charter.  I would then go to a video of the March 9 workshop to get up to speed. You can then follow along in the process from that point moving forward.

I am happy to answer any questions or concerns you might have.  My email is jcaterina@scarboroughmaine.org.  My phone is 207-318-3440. 


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Scarborough Town Council.