PORTLAND — The School Committee approved a $90 million budget for the coming year on Wednesday, preserving sports and music programs and fortifying the ranks of multilingual, middle school and world language teachers.

The budget also would preserve several unidentified positions, worth a total of $180,000, among 80 jobs targeted for cuts in the $89.7 million budget recommended by Superintendent Jim Morse.

Marnie Morrione, a School Committee finance committee member, said the budget reflects greater collaboration among principals in preparing a spending plan that represents a move toward equity and improvements across the district.

“We don’t really want to cut or touch any of this,” Morrione said. “It’s not perfect, but we’ll keep striving toward that goal.”

The budget would eliminate 64 positions initially targeted for cuts to account for enrollment declines and an expected $4 million reduction in state and federal funding in 2010-11. About half the positions to be cut will be vacant because of retirements. The other half would require layoffs.

The budget would increase the property taxes needed by nearly $800,000, from $66.7 million in the budget year ending June 30 to $67.4 million in 2010-11. That would add 11 cents on the tax rate, and increase the tax bill on a $200,000 home by $22.

The committee decided to spend $829,000 of the additional $1.6 million in state aid that the district received after the superintendent presented his budget March 3.

The budget ignores a recommendation from the City Council’s finance committee to pass a budget with no tax increase, said Councilor John Coyne, who observed the school budget deliberations at Portland Arts and Technology High School.

“I’m not sure there’s support on the council for an increase this year, given the financial struggles that many people are having,” Coyne said outside the meeting.

The committee will present its budget to the City Council on Monday. Portland voters will be asked to consider the school budget in a referendum May 11.

Before the School Committee voted, several people urged members to preserve various positions, including special education teachers and educational technicians.

Jamila Sangab, a Somali immigrant whose children attend the city’s schools, asked the committee to consider the impact of cuts on Portland’s schoolchildren.

“They are the flowers that are supposed to bloom for this city,” Sangab said. “So, we really request more teachers, not less.”

The budget includes new positions:

8.5 teachers of students who are learning to speak English ($420,000).

Three middle school social studies teachers ($150,000).

One middle school literacy specialist ($50,000).

One middle school technology aide ($35,000).

Two elementary Spanish teachers ($100,000).

The budget also would preserve these positions or programs that had been targeted for cuts:

Middle and high school sports programs ($340,000).

Elementary band and K-12 strings programs ($120,000).

Family living and human sexuality teacher ($75,000).

The family living teacher would be maintained for one year, while the district develops a plan to incorporate sex education into the health education curriculum.

Two other family living teachers will retire in June.

Several committee members also noted the need to find alternative funding sources for school sports and boost participation in music programs because the district is expected to lose an additional $4 million to $6 million in state and federal revenue in 2011-12. 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

[email protected]


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