2016-04-14 / News

Councilors proud of tri-community vote

By Dave Precourt and Kevin Roche

Sorry it has been over a month since our last update, it has been busy with the budget process. Also, we ran through our council quota of complete sentences from our prior articles, but have refreshed those strategic reserves with some updates.

We’d like to lead with a big congrats to our local school boards of Biddeford, Dayton and Saco, along with the board of Thornton Academy, on coming together on a vote of common purpose of starting school later for our middle school and high school students. It is our joint opinion that the science is indisputable, the key was making sure communities could come together to make it work for as many parents and students as possible, and at no cost to the taxpayers. Regardless of where you may come down on this initiative, it was quite impressive to see the boards come together in one meeting, debate, listen to the public and come to a decision. This is a great sign for other initiatives we can work together on as communities. And what residents, parents and schools can do to affect positive change.

Speaking of schools, the school budget is now before the council. You may be hearing of a coming tax increase, but in these early debates, we want to communicate some of the early issues we are debating. The tax increase is really not coming from school spending, as the proposed budget only has a less than 1 percent increase. The potential tax increase is the state government shorting Saco about $1 million in reimbursement from their educational spending pool (ED279). So while we debate locally on our spending, we will still pursue more relief to increase this reimbursement at the state level. This doesn’t mean we are not looking at other savings, as the two of us are particularly concerned about proposed spending on separating the school IT department from the city plus spending on contingency reserves meant for true emergencies.

There has been concern about public input at our city council meetings. We agree that we have confused ourselves a bit on where and how public comments are done at meetings. Our goal was to improve upon what was done for comments in our last term, in that public comments were only allowed on items not on the agenda. This is like debating the grasshopper population in winter. The council, through the mayor’s discretion, want to hear from the public throughout our workshop and regular meeting process. We hoped to have this clarified in coming meetings. Also, we want to hear from you more on email, phone or in person.

And on city communication, the city has made some positive steps in getting your feedback by calling for neighborhood meetings. The first one in March was for the downtown, where traffic and natural gas were the top issues discussed. We have one coming up for the industrial park and one before summer, tentatively scheduled for Camp Ellis/beach area. These are great meetings to bring up issues not known before the city, and also tie into our economic development and bring in more commercial tax dollars.

April and May will be busy, we appreciate your input to the budget and city activities.

Any opinions expressed by Dave Precourt and Kevin Roche are solely their individual opinions and not the positions of the council as a whole.

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