Facing a cut of $2.7 million in state aid, the Portland schools superintendent presented a $103.7 million school budget that would increase the school portion of Portland’s property tax rate by 4.5 percent.

“This was really hard,” Acting Superintendent Jeanne Crocker said Tuesday night after the school board meeting. “We dearly hope to not need to bring something like 4.5 (percent increase) to the voters. We are hoping the state subsidy numbers lower that number significantly.”

Crocker was referring to news Tuesday that Gov. Paul LePage and Maine’s legislative leaders were near agreement on a compromise that would extend tax breaks to businesses and add $15 million in education funding to the state budget.

“I’m pinning my hopes that we’re getting some money back,” Crocker said.

Crocker’s budget is a 0.9 percent increase, or $947,924, over the current budget, which ends on June 30. The increase in the school portion of Portland’s property tax rate would add $46 dollars to an annual tax bill per $100,000 of value, or $138 for a $300,000 home. By comparison, last year’s final budget had a tax rate increase of 0.1 percent, or $1 per $100,000 of assessed property value.

The proposed state aid cut was announced in February, surprising many communities that didn’t realize they would see sharply reduced state funding. The drop of about $20 million statewide is driven by increased costs, almost-level state funding and a drop in statewide tax valuation.


Among the 248 school districts throughout the state, 131 would lose money, ranging from a few hundred dollars to $2.7 million for the Portland school district, the state’s largest. The $14.2 million funding projection for Portland, which serves 6,812 students and is the largest district in the state, is about 16 percent less than the $16.9 million the district received the previous year.

Crocker’s budget presented Tuesday includes eliminating fewer than 10 staff positions, mostly through retirement and not filling vacant positions, she said. Some positions being eliminated include a chemical hygiene safety officer, a part-time art teacher and an elementary school family education teacher. Crocker said the safety officer position isn’t required by law, and the current family education teacher is retiring and that material can be taught by other teachers. The district also is ending a contract with an online education provider of math software, saving $40,000 a year. Some staff will move between schools to keep class sizes the same.

“The cuts we have made are very strategic ones that minimize the negative impact on teaching and learning,” she said. “In all our budget decisions, our focus was on maintaining a high quality of teaching and learning.”

The budget increases funding for some programs, including adding a pre-kindergarten class.

“Even in this difficult budget time, we need to grow and support our initiatives that increase student achievement,” Crocker said.

The full proposed budget will be posted on the district’s website on Wednesday, she said.

The school board’s finance committee, the school board and the City Council will all review the budget and hold public hearings before the proposal goes to voters on May 10.

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