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A Budget Worth Voting For

Council Corner: A Budget Worth Voting For

By April Sither, Town Council

The FY25 budget marks my sixth as an elected official. In that time I have served on the School Board finance committee twice and the Town Council finance committee twice, once as a reluctant chair. In my “off years” I have remained diligent in attending most finance committee meetings, budget workshops, and community roundtables. For six years I have debated mil rate goals, net budget goals, geometric mean, bond rating, tax impact, “no till zero”, “no too low,” and everything in between. I have written articles, letters to the editor, made Facebook memes, and stood beside my husband dressed in a giant dog costume waving a “vote yes” sign on the side of Rt. 1 with a baby strapped to my chest.  

I have voted in favor of budgets that I didn’t like because I appreciated the compromise it took to get there. This year was no exception. The budget put forth by the Town and School Department will result in a projected 1.5% increase in the tax rate - half of our well established 3% goal. While many towns throughout southern and central Maine are seeing double digit increases, your elected officials have responded to inflationary pressures, as well as the impact of the town-wide revaluation, with a modest increase that I hope will pass at the polls by a wide margin. Do I agree with every priority or dollar spent? Of course not. But the calls for further reductions being made by some are not in the best interest of our community at large.

My biggest concern this budget cycle is that some of you reading this article will have recently opened a letter from the town assessor and have learned that you will be experiencing a significant increase to your tax bill as a result of the town-wide revaluation…and that your gut reaction will be to vote down the school budget. To those residents, I get it, and I can promise you that I had you in mind when I approved this year's net budget increase. What I hope to convey here is that just a small portion of your increase is related to this budget. If you were heavily impacted by the reval, voting down the school budget will only have a minimal impact on your overall tax bill should the council take action to reduce the net budget request for a second referendum. 

If I am being honest, this isn’t the budget I wanted for our community. I would love nothing more than to add critical positions to serve our residents, maintain our current level of service, and invest in our future. But I also recognize that for many residents, inflationary pressures, the loss of the senior tax stabilization program, and/or increased tax bills as a result of the revaluation make this a difficult year to make new investments. With that said, I genuinely believe this budget was built with the needs of our residents and students as a top priority, and for that I am very grateful. 

Early voting is taking place at Town Hall during business hours until June 6th. Election day is June 11th, and the polls will be open at Scarborough High School from 7am-8pm. My family and I will once again be waving signs on election day. According to my husband, it's my turn to wear the dog costume! See you out there voters! 

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.

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