PORTLAND – The School Committee stands to have $109,000 less to spend on outside consultants in the coming school year, based on a final budget-cutting vote that the committee took Monday night.

The unanimous vote reduced the proposed school budget to $89.9 million and reduced the amount of property taxes to be raised to $67.4 million.

That’s a 1 percent increase over this fiscal year’s $66.7 million property tax levy for Portland’s public schools.

“We wanted to keep the impact as far as possible from students,” said Peter Eglinton, the committee chairman, after the vote.

Last week, the City Council’s Finance Committee asked municipal and school officials to cut at least $475,000 from their combined $286 million budget for the fiscal year starting July 1.

Jill Duson and other councilors said they wanted an overall budget proposal that requires a tax increase of less than 1 percent.

While school officials said they have done their fair share to reach that goal, some residents at Monday’s meeting at City Hall disagreed.

“You haven’t gone far enough,” Steven Scharf told the committee.

“You really should be at a zero-percent increase.”

Mark Usinger, another resident, said he’s disappointed that the school district plans to add positions when “everywhere I look, people are cutting.”

In particular, Usinger criticized Superintendent Jim Morse’s plan to restructure top administration. Morse said the plan will rename positions and redefine duties without adding positions or spending more.

Overall, the proposed school budget would eliminate 60 jobs and create 15.5 new positions.

Reached after the meeting, Mayor Nicholas Mavodones Jr. said he was pleased that school officials were able to reduce their budget further.

“It’s a good-faith effort,” he said. “They weren’t given a firm number. They’ve had a very deliberate budget process this year and I think most councilors appreciate that.”

The 2010-11 school budget proposal is nearly $1.4 million — 1.5 percent — less than the $91.3 million school budget that the council approved last spring for 2009-10.

However, the 2010-11 budget proposal is $1.3 million more than the actual 2009-10 spending plan, which was reduced to $88.6 million following a $2.7 million midyear reduction in state aid.

The $109,000 reduction would leave the School Committee with nearly $44,000 to hire consultants in the coming year, said Kate Snyder, the school finance subcommittee’s chairwoman.

She said she’s comfortable supporting the $109,000 reduction because the committee still has $128,000 of $153,000 in its budget for consultants for the current school year.

The district will use part of that $128,000 to hire a consultant to review sports, music and other extracurricular programs that were considered for budget cuts this spring.

The school budget is scheduled for a council vote on May 3 and a citywide referendum on May 11.


Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: [email protected]


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