PORTLAND — A special election will be held Sept. 4 to ask voters to increase the school budget by $1.9 million.

In May, voters approved a $96.4 million school budget that eliminated roughly 55 positions. But the state budget, which has an impact on school budgets, wasn’t finalized until June.

That budget requires the city to adjust school spending, officials said, because the state shifted about $1.4 million in teacher retirement costs onto the district, while increasing General Purpose Aid by $1.9 million. That left the Portland district with $500,000 in unexpected revenue.

Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk said the district plans to use the $500,000 to restore administrator and teaching positions that were previously eliminated, including an elementary assistant principal; 1.5 instructional support specialists; 1.5 high school teachers for technology, world language and visual arts; and four educational technicians.

The extra spending would not affect the previous voter-approved tax rate because it’s covered by the additional state aid.

State law requires voter approval for school budgets, and districts must get voter approval again if they choose to spend additional funds.

Jim Rier, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Education, said he believes most Maine communities will not need to adjust their budgets because they either accounted for the increase in teacher retirement costs or have decided not to spend the additional state aid this year.

Districts that do not use the additional state funding will have that money available to them in case the state issues another mid-year cutback in funding, Rier said.

In South Portland, for example, Superintendent Suzanne Godin said the district will not be making any school budget adjustments that require voter approval. The district had budgeted $600,000 for teacher retirement costs and will use $300,000 of its additional state aid to help pay for the high school expansion, she said.

The remaining $589,000 in additional state aid will be put in a surplus account at the end of the fiscal year, Godin said.

The Portland Board of Public Education originally included the teacher retirement costs in the budget it presented to the City Council. However, the council and Mayor Michael Brennan directed them to remove the line item, because they hoped the Maine Legislature would not include the cost shift in the state budget.

“It was essentially a gamble you took,” resident Steven Scharf told councilors Monday. “You lost the gamble.”

The council decided at Monday’s meeting to hold the special election next month — at a cost of about $17,000 — rather than wait until the November election to seek voter approval.

Brennan and Councilor Edward Suslovic opposed the special election. Brennan said the district would be risking little by waiting until November because the council made a commitment to help offset the retirement costs.

But Superintendent Caulk and Justin Costa, chairman of the school board’s Finance Committee, told councilors that the district could not begin the hiring process without first receiving voter approval.

Also, waiting until November would make it more difficult to find talented people, Caulk said.

Councilor Nicholas Mavodones Jr. said the school budget should be finalized as soon as possible. The $17,000 cost was “a pittance to ensure we have some predictability,” he said.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @randybillings

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