Portland school officials are cutting $870,089 from the current operating budget by adopting a hiring freeze and taking other money-saving measures in anticipation of decreases in state aid.

The measures were announced Friday by Portland School Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk who said the cuts are in response to Gov. Paul LePage’s December curtailment order to eliminate $12.6 million in general purpose aid to Maine Schools.

This week the Maine Legislature’s Appropriations Committee approved LePage’s order which is now awaiting action by the full Legislature.

Caulk said Portland schools must start preparing now for the possible adoption of LePage’s order.
“As difficult as it is to absorb these cuts more than halfway into the school year, we remain committed to using all available resources to support student achievement,” Caulk said.

The hiring freeze, which applies to all non-critical positions could save $200,000 to $300,000, school officials said. The district is  freezing the purchase of all books and periodicals,  nonessential athletic and co-curricular supplies, staff travel that is not contractually obligated and the use of the Portland Board of Public Education’s contingency fund.

Caulk said he does not expect the financial situation to improve any time soon due to a $700 million revenue gap expected in the next biennial state budget, the opening of new charter schools that will taken money from public schools, rising costs and a sluggish economy.