Portland’s Finance Committee voted Thursday night to send a $221 million municipal budget to the City Council for consideration a week before city residents vote on a separate budget for the public schools.

When combined, the two budgets would increase the city tax rate by 3 percent – or 59 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. That would translate into a $134 tax increase next year for a $227,000 home, which is the average home value in Portland.

City Manager Mark Rees said he believes the budget, which differed slightly from his office’s original proposal, meets the City Council’s goals while improving city services and holding down tax rate increase in the face of rising spending obligations.

“We are still moving in the right direction,” Rees said.

Neither budget has been controversial this year, despite the potential tax increase.

On Tuesday, city residents will vote on whether to approve a public school budget valued at $96.3 million. The total proposed school budget for fiscal year 2015 is $101.6 million, but $5.3 million is not subject to voter approval.

The school budget does not call for any teacher layoffs and provides more funding for programs such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as adult education. The budget would also provide money to add teachers at Casco Bay High School to accommodate additional enrollment.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. for voting on the school budget referendum.

Regarding the city budget, Rees said economic growth has added to Portland’s tax base, resulting in additional tax revenue. However, the city’s debt service – including pension obligations – is rising and represents about 20 percent of the general fund budget.

Like other communities throughout Maine, Portland will also receive less revenue-sharing from the state next year because of policy decisions made in Augusta. Portland’s revenue sharing is expected to fall by about $325,000.

Mayor Michael Brennan, who serves on the Finance Committee, said city officials need to “redouble our efforts next year in Augusta” to lobby the legislature on revenue-sharing, school funding and other issues.

“We are held responsible for property taxes at the local level when, in fact, many of the (challenges) have emanated from poor decisions in Augusta,” Brennan said.

The proposed city budget would add the equivalent of 18 new full-time equivalent employees to the city’s payroll, although grant funding or reimbursements from other programs would reduce that figure to 15. The new positions include: a police officer, a grant-funded drug detective, an ordinance enforcement officer, a park ranger and a transportation policy analyst.

Finance Committee members made several adjustments to the budget on Tuesday to lower the percentage tax increase from 3.2 percent to 3 percent, including tapping into $110,000 from the uncommitted or unreserved “fund balance” that city officials are required to maintain.

Committee members opted to provide an additional $30,000 to the city’s soon-to-end Health Care for the Homeless program in order to provide eight more weeks of dental and behavioral health care as the nonprofit Portland Community Health Center takes over the program.

They also voted to set aside an additional $30,000 – on top $50,000 already written into the budget – for the corporation counsel and the police department for legal services. Portland is involved in several high-profile legal cases, including a lawsuit challenging the city’s panhandling ordinance.

The budget also contains a long list of proposed fee increases, including raising the fine for many parking violations from $25 to $30. The budget also proposes increasing building permit fees in the city.

The full City Council will hold a workshop next Monday to review the Finance Committee’s budget recommendation. The council is slated to vote on the budget during its May 19th meeting.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

[email protected]