September 4, 2013

Portland voters OK supplemental school budget

The school department plans to use $1.3 million to pay for teacher retirement costs that were shifted from the state to the district.

By Noel K. Gallagher ngallagher@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Portland voters on Wednesday voted 1,338 to 243 to approve a $1.9 million supplemental school budget in a referendum.

Only 3 percent of registered voters went to the polls.

The school department plans to use $1.3 million to pay for teacher retirement costs that were shifted from the state to the district, $20,336 to pay for two additional students to attend the Baxter Academy for Technology and Science charter school -- a total of nine students in Portland are attending Baxter -- and $523,483 to restore eight staff positions that had been cut from the budget, according to school officials.

School officials had anticipated that the referendum would pass, said School Board member Justin Costa, who chairs the board's finance committee.

"I would say that this is obviously a great way to start the school year," he said. "We are looking forward to begin using these funds to add additional staff to our schools."

The vote finally allows the board to move beyond budget issues, he said.

In May, Portland voters approved a $96.4 million school budget that eliminated roughly 55 positions. But the state budget, which has an impact on school budgets, wasn't finalized until June.

The Legislature increased Portland's subsidy by $1.9 million before its session ended. But the school district can't spend it without voter approval.

Wednesday's vote did not affect taxes. If the referendum had failed, the money would have gone to the city's fund balance.

Noel Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

ngallagher@mainetoday.com

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