SOUTH PORTLAND — Twenty-five positions were cut as part of the $41.1 million school budget unanimously approved by the Board of Education on Monday.

The job losses were not as severe as the 31 proposed by Superintendent Suzanne Godin last month. The board also decided, for now, against implementing plans to consolidate the middle schools, adopt a “pay-to-participate” policy for extracurricular activities and outsource custodial services. Those areas will instead by studied by task forces.

Budget deliberations took place under the shadow of a significant reduction in state education aid, decreasing revenues and increased costs. School officials expected to lose almost $1.7 million in state education aid this year but learned that the district would receive $622,560 more from the state than expected. They also learned that they would be spending about $473,000 less on health insurance than anticipated.

The property tax rate for the school side of South Portland’s budget would increase 13 cents to $9.65 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. That increase stems from $506,623 included in the budget as seed money for a secondary school capital reserve fund for future debt service costs.

Out of the job cuts proposed by Godin, the board reinstated six positions: a high school guidance education technician, a central office administrator, a middle school physical education teacher, a dispatcher/driver, a part-time high school English teacher and a part-time nurse.

Even so, 23 people stand to lose their jobs. Only two of the targeted positions are currently vacant. The cuts include teachers in special education, home economics, science and technology integration; assistant coaches, ed techs, a guidance counselor, a truck driver and a clerk.

Other reductions include middle school football and the closing of Hamlin School, which is expected to be converted to offices for municipal planning and assessment.

The board on Monday also accepted the Secondary Schools Facilities Committee’s $41.9 million high school construction and renovation plan. The vote was 6-1, with Jerald McQueeny opposed.

The new plan is scaled down from the $56 million proposal voters rejected in 2007. The new version eliminated the artificial turf field and second gymnasium, cut 29,000 square feet and has less classroom space.

The discussion included questions about whether voters would accept even the less-expensive plan in these economic times and whether more details of the project’s financing should be in place before the board accepted the plan.

Board Chairman Rick Carter said accepting the plan would provide a baseline to work from.

“We need to move the process forward. I believe this is the first step,” he said.

In order to bond the project, the plan would have to be sent to the City Council and to a voter referendum. The timeline for those steps hasn’t yet been established.

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: [email protected]

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