PORTLAND – The school budget is on its way to the voters while the municipal budget is moving along toward likely approval by the City Council later this month.

With little debate, the council on Monday night approved an $89,462,025 budget for the schools that cuts spending and staff for a third straight year. It now goes to the voters for a May 10 validation vote.

The cut in education spending was accomplished largely through a new contract with Portland teachers that calls for them to be in the classroom five additional days with no added pay, delays step-salary increases and stretches out the minimum time between step increases. The moves will save the district more than $1 million next year.

A controversial provision in the contract that calls for the district to pay 80 percent of the salary of the president of the teachers’ union — the focus of a council workshop on the budget late last month — didn’t come up.

The municipal budget got its first reading Monday and is scheduled for a vote in two weeks.

Councilor John Anton said his finance committee made a few changes that will actually increase the budget while saving taxpayers money.

Acting City Manager Pat Finnigan’s budget called for borrowing $1.89 million for a laundry list of equipment, ranging from sidewalk tractors and pickup trucks to an ambulance and skate-sharpening machine for Portland’s ice rink. But Anton said buying the equipment with a bond would have exceeded the council’s self-imposed $10 million annual limit on short-term debt.

He said his committee cut the list of equipment roughly in half and then moved the remaining $985,000 into the annual budget. That pushes up the city budget to $201.9 million, but taxpayers will save money overall by avoiding the interest on the debt.

Anton said the committee followed Finnigan’s overall budget goals of stability, no staff layoffs and preservation of core city services.

If voters approve the school budget and the municipal budget is approved by the council, taxes will increase 2 percent in the next budget year.

Also on Monday, the council gave itself a liquor license so it can operate the bar and restaurant at its Riverside Golf Course.

The council got tied up in technicalities when it took up the liquor license last week, including the question of who was seeking the license: the council, the head of food services at the Barron Center — which will run the restaurant — or the city manager.

The city’s lawyer, Gary Wood, researched the matter and determined Finnigan, as acting city manager, is the licensee. The council then approved the license 8-1, with Councilor Jill Duson voting against it because she doesn’t feel city employees should serve alcohol.

It’s about time, one golfer told the council.

“Having been out at the course the last few days without a restaurant, it’s pretty bleak,” said Betsy Sawyer-Manter.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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