2017-06-01 / Neighbors

Watchdog group assesses Saco city, school budgets

By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer

SACO – Saco Citizens for Sensible Government met to discuss the city’s approved fiscal year 2017- 2018 budget.

The Saco School Department’s debt was among the major issues raised, which Ward 1 Councilor David Precourt said he is concerned about.

“The school has no revenue stream to pay debts off with. The city can take a revenue stream, the school doesn’t have that ability,” Precourt said at the May 25 meeting. “They need to toe the line a little tighter. A $2.5 million budget can’t come in with increases; I don’t see how those guys are going to come up with that.”

Saco City Administrator Kevin Sutherland said the city budget as whole has a positive balance but within the total, the school fund has a negative balance due to withdrawal from Regional School Unit 23 and money owed to Thornton Academy because of higher than expected student enrollment. The school budget for fiscal year 2017-2018 was $22,214912. The city budget, which came in at $50,323,342, was approved May 8.

“We have additional funds to offset that but the council has not moved the money at this time,” Sutherland said. “At the close of this fiscal year the school may have a larger than negative balance but we are working to rectify that going forward.”

Precourt said that the current tax rate of $19.42 per $1,000 of assessed value will increase by $21 cebts to $19.63 when the new city budget goes into effect July 1.

Ted Sirois, member of the Saco School Board, said members tried to cut the budget but received mixed messages from city councilors.

“We were cutting here, cutting there. Councilor (Alan) Minthorn says, ‘Why are you cutting that, you don’t need to cut that, we the council will find you the money,’” Sirois said.

Saco resident Barbara Colman, and a member of Saco Citizens for Sensible Government, said she is scratching her head over differentials she noticed in the city’s May 8 budget report. Colman said she found six accounts with budget differences in excess of $8,000, a change that must generally be taken before the city council.

“We keep not getting true financial statements, they’re playing with the adopted budget amount every year,” Colman said.

Colman hopes to reject both the city and school’s budgets by collecting 50 signatures and starting the process over again.

Sutherland, however, said he was not aware of any rejection process via signatures in the city charter. The school budget will go to a public vote June 13, and if it is voted down the school board will propose a new budget for the council to reapprove.

Colman said she would like to see the school board take more responsibility to ask questions of the city council.

“Do the process the way it should have been done, come back with adjustments, do everything the proper way,” she said.

Contact Staff Writer Grant McPherson at news@inthecourier.com

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