2017-06-22 / Letters

School board member urges council to spend less in Saco

To the editor:

Thank you to all the Saco voters who turned out at the June 13 budget validation referendum, especially to those who approved our 2017-2018 school budget.

A few days before this vote, I received a phone call from a Saco resident criticizing our schools for causing Saco’s tax rate to go up again this year. Admittedly, this year’s school budget did take a couple major hits beyond the normal cost of living increases. First there was an unexpected cut in state funding, part of which was a result of state auditors determining that Saco’s increase in property values makes it so Saco should have an increasing revenue stream to cover more of the cost of educating Saco’s children. Secondly, an unusually large number of out of town high school students (about 70) suddenly established residency in Saco requiring us to fund their tuition at the prestigious Thornton Academy High School. So I wonder, where is this extra revenue the state says we should have coming in especially considering that about 70 new families just moved in to Saco this year?

I joined the school board in 2015 because I was also led to believe our high mil rate was due mostly to the school budget. But, I was surprised to find that Saco has one of the lowest per student expenditures in the state. We are No. 2 in York County just behind Sanford in efficiency. I’m now realizing that Saco’s high mil rate is more of a result of the city council’s lack of leadership in expanding our tax base and allowing certain individuals and businesses to not pay their fair share of the cost of city services. On top of not increasing Saco’s incoming revenue stream, the council has engaged in some incredibly wasteful spending projects. I’m reminded of this fact every time I ride by that useless windmill we will soon have to pay to take down. Other spending fiascos also included the building of a full-blown train station when other communities were satisfied with a covered platform. Even when Saco voters try to rein in this out of control spending, they are ignored. We made it clear by referendum vote to only authorize $990,000 to restore Stackpole Bridge if, and only if, the bridge was a historical structure. Yet, despite a finding that this bridge was not historical, the council ignored residents and went on to authorized spending an additional $400,000 of taxpayer dollars on this project. At the May 8 council meeting, some councilors expressed concern that the school budget was unfairly affecting our elderly taxpayers. Now exactly how many poor elderly taxpayers will be served by this faux historical bridge we just funded? So although I did appreciate hearing from that Saco voter concerning our increasing taxes, I also think a phone call to their city councilor was also warranted.

Ted Sirois Saco School Board, Ward 6

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