PORTLAND — Voters who go to the polls today for a citywide referendum will decide on their school system’s $94.2 million budget proposal for the next school year. Voters will be asked: “Do you favor approving the Portland School Budget for the upcoming school year that was adopted at the latest City Council budget meeting?”

The City Council voted unanimously last week to approve the school budget, after the Portland Board of Public Education cut about $600,000 from the proposal.

State law requires school districts to hold referendums for final budget approval by a majority of voters.

The proposal’s $4.7 million in additional spending over the current school budget would boost expenditures by 5.3 percent, require an additional $2.7 million from property taxes and increase the tax rate for Portland schools by 3.7 percent.

Education spending accounts for nearly one-third of the city’s total expenditures. Combined, the school and municipal budgets for the fiscal year that starts July 1 would increase Portland’s property tax rate by 2.9 percent. The tax rate would increase 54 cents, from $18.28 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $18.82. For a home assessed at $200,000, taxes would go up $108.

The City Council will make its final decision on the city’s $206.4 million municipal budget next Monday.

The proposed school budget includes a $71,000 increase for English language courses run by Portland Adult Education.

Those courses have had a surge in enrollment in recent years, creating a waiting list of 160 people. The additional funding would cut the waiting list by half.

The school board’s big new initiative calls for upgrading the computers used by teachers and students, including replacing high school students’ Dell Netbooks with laptop computers.

For elementary schools that now have old computers, the school board wants to replace computer labs with a system in which computers are brought into classrooms on carts.

The school board proposed spending $526,000 as the first payment in a four-year lease-to-purchase plan for new computers and for wiring upgrades. The plan would have cost $2 million in the fourth year.

The City Council decided that it would be cheaper to borrow than to make lease payments, and removed that money from the operating budget. Now the council plans to borrow the money for computer upgrades, although no final decision has been made.

Once the budget process is finished, the City Council will decide which city and school projects should be funded with borrowed money.

For more detailed information about where or how to vote, contact the City Clerk’s Office at 874-8677.

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: TomBellPortland